NEJM 1 Feb 2007

The petrol-fuelled motor car gives us comfortable mobility and independence, but at the cost of denaturing the entire landscape of the developed world, the future of our climate, the very air we breathe. Thanks to the efforts of a team of epidemiologists and statisticians from the US Women’s Health Initiative, we can just about calculate the effect of fine particulate air pollution on cardiovascular disease and death in postmenopausal women. Pollution with particulate matter less than 2.5μm in size varies from 3 to about 30μg/m3 in American cities, and there is a 24% additional risk of any cardiovascular event and a 76% added risk of cardiovascular death for each 10μg/m3. That’s a very hefty additional risk for city-dwellers amongst heavy motor traffic, and probably applies at least equally to men. For a summary of other nasty effects see the editorial.

Of course nature has its hazards too. Fragrant oils from lavender and tea tree plants are widely used in skin lotions, balms, hair gels, soaps and other “skin care products