Indonesia is a health hazard. Not because I’m afraid of getting hit by a car – that’s not going to happen in the slow moving traffic – but because of all the noxious
fumes I’m inhaling.
notice the effects in Bogor, where every afternoon I would develop a headache.
I’m not a headache person. Before spending 5 days in Bogor, I could probably
count on my fingers the number of headaches I’ve had in my life. I felt like I could
feel the weight of the particulate on my skin, and when we washed our clothes,
the rinse water turned black.
I’ve started to worry
that our year in Asia is going to have a serious toll on our health. So I
looked up some stats. The first thing I found was this fantastic quote from a
2003 article in the Jakarta Post: “Respiratory diseases have become the number
one killer in Indonesia, up from number three in 1997 and number six in 1993” (The
Jakarta Post, 12. Sept. 2003). With the sheer amount of traffic, and the
rampant smoking of cigarettes, I can easily believe it.
enjoys notoriety as the third most toxic city in the world, following Nepal’s
Katmandu and India’s New Delhi. Its
sheer population gives some awe-inspiring stats. Every day, more than 1,000 new
motorbikes enter traffic. There are more than 4 million motorbikes in Jakarta
alone. Including cars and buses, that’s more than 7 million vehicles on the
road every day – 1.5 million more than the total vehicles in the greater Los
Angeles area. We’re accustomed to thinking that traffic in L.A. is bad – now
add 4 million mopeds and a take away the lane divisions.
People in Jakarta have
started to wise up to the poor air quality in their city. And since 46% of all
illness cases reported in 2004 were respiratory related (article here),
it’s a good thing. Face masks are a new trend, especially cutesy ones with
Hello Kitty, Snoopy, tiny hearts, or flowers. Rob and I bought the disposable
3-pack from the grocery store, so we like we just came from surgery (or have
among the worst, the entire SE Asia and Pacific region suffers health problems
related to air pollution. World Bank in Asia estimates that “a great number of
people in urban East Asia and the Pacific lose more than 12 productive years
due to disability caused by air pollution.” Rob, in his OCD math genius
way, quickly did the math on the effect one year in Asia would have on our
lifespan. He concluded that we will have 73 days, or 2.4 months, fewer to live
than if we’d simply stayed home and watched Globe Trekkers.
He then calculated
that this loss of lifespan is equivalent to smoking 867 packs of cigarettes
EACH! That’s like smoking 2 1/2 packs a day for the whole Year of the Durian. I’ve never smoked a
cigarette, but at this rate I’m killing myself faster than a chain smoker. Ohh,
the things we do for love… of durian.