Doctors urge government to combat high levels of pollution

Doctors urge government to combat high levels of pollution


13 September 2015


Air pollution in parts of NSW is unacceptably high and has the same detrimental impact on health as smoking nearly one cigarette a day, according to a group of doctors who have called on the government to urgently improve air quality standards.

Twenty-four doctors have penned an open letter to NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner and the Environment Minister Mark Speakman after the first year’s result from the EPA’s new air quality monitors in Newcastle showed three out of six sites had fine particulate matter (PM2.5) above the advisory standard of 8.0 ug/m3.

The monitors showed the average PM2.5 reading for Carrington 8.2, Stockton 9.0 and central Newcastle 8.5 ug/m3.

This concentration of particulates has the same mortality impact as smoking ¾ of a cigarette each day for every child as well as adult in town; it is therefore a big problem, “said Newcastle GP and member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, Dr Ben Ewald.

‘’ We are doing our best to look after patients with heart and lung disease but the air quality in suburbs adjacent to industry is a drag on their health. 

“It’s unacceptable that after having non enforceable advisory standards on fine particulates for 12 years, a one- year period of public consultation, and strong advice from the government’s experts, the Council of Australian Governments meeting in mid July, still could not implement new standards and put the decision off to December.

 “The Government has a duty of care to protect public health and must tackle the problem of air quality as a priority. Having an enforceable standard for fine particulates will assist the state government to tackle exhaust emissions from old and dirty diesel locomotives and shipping that make major contributions to unhealthy air. “



Dr Ben Ewald, 0422 378 042

Ben Ewald is a general practitioner in suburban Newcastle and teaches epidemiology at the University of Newcastle. He is a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia


Dr John Van Der Kallen, 0431 535 742

John Van Der Kallen is a physician practicing in Newcastle, and a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia.


Further information

 1. Please see attached open letter

2. Doctors for the Environment Australia made a submission to the public consultation process that started in July 2014, supporting the introduction of compulsory standards for fine particles at a daily average of 25ug/m3 and annual average of 8ug/m3, as well as for the coarser particles PM10 with an annual average of 20ug/m3. While the fine particle standard is delayed until December, there was no commitment to an annual limit for coarse particles.


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