Australians die while ministers delay action on air pollution

Today's meeting of Australia's state, territory and Commonwealth environment ministers has failed to adopt proposed new air pollution standards, after deliberating for almost a year and receiving several thousand submissions supporting stricter standards.

“Australians deserve strong laws to protect their right to breathe clean air,” said Environmental Justice Australia’s Director of Advocacy & Research Ms Nicola Rivers.

“With air pollution killing 3000 Australians every year, and tens of thousands more suffering health effects, we urgently need strong national laws in the form of a Clean Air Act,” she said.

“In Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, toxic clouds of smoke from last year’s coal mine fire caused terrible suffering, showing the potential hazards of health damage from coal pollution.” she continued.

“Ministers have received thousands of emails, letters and other representations from constituents who support cleaner air. Can Ministers confirm that lobbying by the Australian Minerals Council is not slowing the process of protecting the air we breathe?” she concluded.

“The ministers’ failure to reach a decision today lets down Australia’s children. Approximately 1130 children under 14 are admitted to hospital each year due to exposure to short term coarse particle (PM10) exposure,” said EJA researcher Dr James Whelan.

“Approximately 1590 Australians die prematurely each year from long term fine particle (PM2.5), much of which comes from coal-fired power stations,” Dr Whelan continued

“The economy also suffers from air pollution. The health costs of air pollution in Australia have been estimated to be up to $24.3 billion annually, solely as a result of deaths,” he went on.

“Australia’s primary source of PM10 emissions is coal mines, with coal terminals and coal-fired power stations also significant contributors. Ministers were due to decide on stricter standards that would require effective pollution controls in coal-affected communities like the Latrobe and Hunter valleys.” said Dr Whelan.

“Today’s delay shows that our current system of complex and bureaucratic air pollution standards is failing. Governments at all levels have been dithering about creating a standard for particle pollution for 15 years now, while other countries have adopted stricter standards,” concluded Ms Rivers.

 

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