Report on route reveals public health hazards
By Bianca Begovich
A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on the Kapiti expressway shows there are likely to be significant health impacts for anyone living within 200m of the proposed road.
Public health lecturer Dr Marie O’Sullivan, who was commissioned to do the research, says most households on the route have an existing health condition which would be worsened by being next to a motorway.
Dr O’Sullivan says “There are many older people and young families along the proposed route. These two groups would be most negatively impacted by living next to a major road.”
Serious Heart risks
She says:”While some people we interviewed knew about the effects on lung capacity and respiratory functioning, many were unaware of the other major health problems associated with living next to a motorway; – increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, sleep disturbance and reduced cognitive functioning along with effects on mental health from noise, community severance and reduced quality of the surrounding environment.
“We estimate that approximately two thirds of residents with hearing aids, who are living close to the proposed route, would be unable to use these reliably because of the proposed noise levels”.
Dr O’Sullivan adds that another major concern which has come to light as a result of the survey is the lack of information many households had about the project. “The proposed route goes through high density housing with approximately 1360 dwellings located within 200m of the route.
She says:”Many of these households didn’t realize that SH1 was being re-routed to go past their back fence. This indicates that the Transport Agency’s (NZTA) consultation has been inadequate”.
The Health Assessment was commissioned by members of the public so local people can be informed about the health effects of living next to a major road based on independent research.
It includes information from peer-reviewed scientific literature and organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the British Medical Association (BMA).
NZTA did not supply information
Dr O’Sullivan says “NZTA have not included information on health impacts in any of their 36 reports on the effects of the expressway. It is dangerous to assume that there are negligible or no health impacts from a project this big. When the British Medical Association says that long term exposure to air pollutants decreases life expectancy, it’s a good idea to pay attention”.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now calling for submissions on the Kapiti expressway (www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-Management/m2pp). The Assessmnent will be submitted as evidence and SaveKapiti have agreed to post a copy on their website (www.savekapiti.co.nz) by tomorrow so anyone can refer to the research in their own submission.
First results from the household survey will also be on the SaveKapiti website from Friday 3rd August. SaveKapiti urges everyone to make a submission, even if it is only a paragraph in length. The last date for submissions is Friday 10 August, 2012.
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