Media release: Doctors alarmed at new air pollution data call for immediate action

18 April 2016

Doctors are alarmed at the latest air pollution data which shows emissions of key pollutants linked to respiratory and heart diseases is continuing to grow, and warn that more Australians will die or suffer illness as a result.

Medical advocacy group Doctors for the Environment Australia says the recent release of the federal government’s annual National Pollutant Inventory shows a staggering 1559 million kg of course particle (PM10) emissions was released last year into the atmosphere with over half coming from coal and metal ore mining. These emissions have increased 69 per cent in one year, and 194 per cent in five years.

In 2002 it was estimated that there were 3000 excess deaths due to air pollution in Australia- double the road fatalities. This figure is likely to have grown given the sharp rise in emissions since that time.

PM2.5 emissions, which are the biggest cause of illness and death from air pollution, also remain unnecessarily high. Coal fired power generation and coal mining account for over half of these deadly pollutants. Similarly in 2014/15 there has been 560 million kg of sulphur dioxide emitted from electricity generation. This represents nearly half  the total sulphur dioxide emissions in Australia.

“The latest NPI figures are a disgrace for a wealthy advanced country which should first and foremost be concerned about the health if its citizens,” says DEA spokesperson Dr John Van Der Kallen. “Governments continue to sacrifice many communities to a dying fossil fuel industry.”

The NPI covers 93 toxic pollutants emitted by industry facilities across Australia.

Long-term exposure to air pollution, even at very low levels, increases heart disease, asthma and is now recognised as a cause of lung cancer, just like cigarette smoking.

Despite the cost, current laws do not adequately protect Australians from air pollution, and regulation is weak. The NPI data is based on industry reports rather than independent assessment.

DEA calls on federal and state governments to reverse this worsening trend in emissions by rapidly moving from coal mining and to renewable sources of electricity generation.

This transition will also greatly reduce dangerous greenhouse gases. Coal combustion and mining are major contributors of climate change.

For further comment

Dr John Van Der Kallen ‪0431 535 742

Dr David Shearman, 0488  419 070

About DEA

DEA is an independent health advocacy organisation of medical doctors raising awareness of the link between health and the environment http://dea.org.au

We are supported by a scientific advisory committee:

Professor Stephen Boyden AM; Professor Peter Doherty AC; Professor Dave Griggs; Professor Michael Kidd AM; Professor David de Kretser AC; Professor Stephen Leeder AO; Professor Ian Lowe AO; Professor Robyn McDermott; Professor Lidia Morawska; Professor Peter Newman AO; Professor Emeritus Sir Gustav Nossal AC; Professor Hugh Possingham; Professor Lawrie Powel AC; Professor Fiona Stanley AC; Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM; Dr Norman Swan.

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