Doctors for the Environment Australia warns any plans to expand coal mining in the Hunter Valley and other parts of NSW, as highlighted by new research, will have serious repercussions for health.
DEA spokesperson, Dr Bob Vickers, describes a report by the Australia Institute that shows a surge in coal mining proposals as “deeply concerning”.
Says Dr Vickers, “The mining, transporting and burning of coal poses one of the most significant health issues of our time.
“Burning coal emits hazardous air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, mercury and arsenic.
“These pollutants contribute to the leading causes of death in our society: heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer. Coal pollutants can affect lung development in children and trigger asthma attacks.
“The air pollution in the Hunter Valley is consistently breaching national standards. There is pollution of fine particulates (PM10) in excess of Australian and also World Health Organization standards at a number of monitoring sites. There is in fact growing recognition that there is no safe level for the finest dust particles.
“This pollution is likely to be impacting on the health of locals; similar levels of pollution in many countries do increase the incidence of several heart and lung diseases and decrease life expectancy.
“More coal means more dust will also arise from the great increase in coal wagons travelling through a number of areas where people live.
“Coal mining uses up valuable agricultural land and water, both of which can also be polluted from coal waste.
“Australia’s continuing coal addiction will not help coal mining workers either. The workforce employed in the mining of thermal coal in the Hunter has become much more casualised; and we are seeing a global shift away from thermal coal giving rise to greater insecurity about jobs in the future.
“Farmers also are worried about impacts on their agricultural land and all of us need to be concerned about our food and water security.
“Coal is a major source of rising greenhouse gas causing climate change, whose impacts we have seen in back-to-back extreme weather events- first we had drought, then mega-bushfires and associated air pollution, and more recently devastating floods.
“Australia can and must do better.
“Making the necessary transition from coal, which will inevitably wind down, to renewables will deliver a health dividend: cleaner air, water and land and a more stable climate.”
Dr Vickers quoted in “Turnbull calls for halt on new coal mines, inquiry on rehabilitation funds”, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 2021
DEA Fact Sheet: Health Toll of Coal
Australia Institute report, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Media and Communications Coordinator, Carmela Ferraro, 0410 703 074
Photo credit: Frank Bergmann