Source: The Mercury, 11 June, 1991, p.2
By WAYNE CRAWFORD WHEN mathematical researcher Mr Athol Robinson, of Sandy Bay, gets in his 1976-model Hol- den to drive to the city, he is sure he is adding to his risk of develop- ing heart disease, stroke leukaemia, lung cancer and diabetes. Twenty years of research - some in conjunction with the Royal Hobart Hospital and the University of Tasmania- convinced Mr Robinson that motoring is a health hazard. Mr Robinson has graphs which show quite dramatically an almost perfect relationship be- tween the increase in ischaemic heart deaths and the increase in use of motor vehicles. Similar relationships are shown to exist between lung can- cer, leukaemia, stroke and diabetes. Mr Robinson spent 25 years as a technical officer at the universi- ty and, for the past two decades half of it during his retirement, has been studying the relation- ship between motor transport and 20th century epidemic illnesses. Central to his hypothesis, which has created worldwide in- terest and even been taken up by the World Health Organisation is that the human body is de- signed to travel no faster than it can run. The eyes register the speed of movement, and automatically the blood is charged with the fuels required by the physical exertion anticipated to be needed. But when the body is moving without physical exertion - such as in a car - the blood is still subjected to the metabolic chain of events which It would need if there was physical exertion. This chain involves cholester- ol, triglycerides, glucose and in- sulin, and an imbalance is caused upsetting metabolic, motor and nervous system control. Because the effect relies on the travellers' eyes registering the speed of movement, the danger seems to relate predominantly to ground travel - automobiles, trains - and not so much to air travel where the speed is not registered by sight to the same extent. While Mr Robinson does not discount such things as diet, exercise and smoking as contributory factors to disease, he says that the mathematical relationship cannot be shown between these factors and illnesses as it can between travel and the ailments. For instance, between 1920-1972, lung cancer in Australia increased by 2810 per cent, which is about the same (2840 per cent) rate of increase in petrol consumption for the period. But tobacco consumption in that period increased only by 69 per cent. Included in findings published in Mr Robinson's newly-released book, Driving into Danger - which includes 15 scientific papers he has had published on the subject-are: Vehicle travel may cause lung cancer, and smoking can have a multiplying effect. The corollary is that smoking while travelling in motor vehicles is even more dangerous to health than smoking when not driving. Pregnant women are especially at risk when motoring, not only because of the greater effect on themselves, but because of the possible effect on unborn children. Mr Robinson says heart attack is now the greatest single cause of death in developed nations- yet it was virtually unknown before the first series of heart attacks in the world was reported in 1912, the same year that mass produced cars developed to the point where they could achieve about 40kmh. As further evidence of his hyphothesis, Mr Robinson has studied the health of inmates of Risdon Jail and says there has been "no coronary event of any description" at the jail in the past 35 years, which is as far as records can be traced. He says prisoners represent a cross-section of society except in one important detail-they are not free to travel.
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