Source: The Mercury, 11 June, 1991, p.2

Family car is killing us, says Tasmanian researcher


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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