Doctors warn against approving the T4 coal loader proposal

Doctors warn against approving the T4 coal loader proposal


13 July 2015


The extra particulates from the proposed fourth coal loader in Newcastle will worsen air pollution and cause illness if the project is approved, warned health experts at today’s NSW Planning and Assessment Commission determination hearing.


Doctors for the Environment Australia spokesperson Dr Ben Ewald, a Newcastle GP who also teaches epidemiology at the University of Newcastle, said that:


  • The opinion that there will be only a minimal increase in the particulates in the air from the T4 project is seriously flawed because the PM10 standard being used is from 32 years ago and is out of date- especially as new national standards will soon be introduced.

  •  The coarse fraction of PM10 is associated with lung disease, especially lung cancer of the adenocarcionoma type. This is the only form of lung cancer found in non-smokers, and it is becoming an increasing proportion of new lung cancers.

  • Since the last PAC hearing there has been new evidence published from a large cohort of children in California showing the effect of particulate air pollution on lung growth, and the reduced effect as air quality has been cleaned up in that jurisdiction.

  • It is four years since Newcastle’s PM 10 annual average was below the level about to be set as the national standard. And while 2009 was a bad year everywhere due to prolonged bushfires, no site in Sydney or Illawarra has had annual PM10 >20 since 2009, only Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. 

  • DEA notes the internationally agreed target to limit global temperature increase to 2 degrees. Exceeding this limit will be a massive health disaster through heat stress and food insecurity. To limit temperature rise to 2 degrees, 80% of known fossil fuel deposits will have to remain unburnt and this will have to include NSW coal. 

  • Empty wagons should be washed before they leave the site. Measurement of air quality along the rail corridor shows a transient spike in particulates as each train goes by, and these are higher spikes for empty trains than for full ones. This is because empty trains travel faster than full ones, the coal dust dries out, and turbulence in the empty carriage picks up residual dust and spreads it into the atmosphere. 

The PAC hearing will be staged over two days. If approved, T4 will export up to 70 million additional tonnes of coal per year. It already has the capacity to move 142 million tonnes per annum.




Dr Ben Ewald,  0422 378 042. 




DEA is supported by a scientific committee which consists of:


Professor Stephen Boyden AM; Professor Peter Doherty AC, FRS, FAA; Professor Bob Douglas AO; Professor Dave Griggs; Professor Michael Kidd AM; Professor David de Kretser AC; Professor Steve Leeder AO; Professor Ian Lowe AO; Professor Robyn McDermott; Professor Peter Newman; Sir Gustav Nossal, AC, CBE, FAA, FRS; Professor Hugh Possingham; Professor Lawrie Powell AC; Professor Fiona Stanley AC; Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM; Norman Swan; Professor David Yencken AO

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