Media release: Senate Inquiry – You’re more likely to die from air pollution than road accidents, NSW health experts warn

22 February 2017

Air pollution endangers more lives than road deaths, doctors will tell a Senate Inquiry into the closure of coal-fired power stations on Wednesday.

Recent analysis by Australian scientists has shown that reducing fine particle pollution in Sydney alone by 20% would prevent 130 premature deaths a year.

To tackle these preventable deaths, Doctors for the Environment Australia, a health group supported by a Nobel laureate, recipients of the Australia of the Year award and deans from Australia’s leading medical colleges, will call for New South Wales’ big five coal-fired power stations to pay 49 times more than they are currently paying for the pollution they emit.

This fee reflects the true cost of coal to the public  and will also provide an economic incentive for polluters to clean up their act or close poorly performing power stations.

Says spokesperson Dr John Van Der Kallen, “There is no doubt that Australia’s addiction to coal is killing people, and that it’s time to get serious about saving lives.”

Dr John Van Der Kallen and Dr Ben Ewald will tell the Senate Inquiry that coal fired power leads to:

Poor air quality

  • In the Sydney Greater Metropolitan Region, coal fired power stations account for a large proportion of toxic air pollution – 87% of the sulphur dioxide, over half of the nitrogen dioxide and 20% of fine particle pollution.

Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are potent lung irritants, causing asthma attacks and worsening lung disease. Fine particles cause deaths from heart and lung disease.

  • Pollution from coal-fired power stations in Lithgow, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie has been shown to travel all the way to western Sydney.
  • Every year, approximately 3000 Australians die as a result of air pollution.

Coal is a major driver of climate change, causing increased heatwaves, extreme weather events and drought

  • NSW was recently reported as being the hottest place on earth in a mammoth heatwave, with temperature records being smashed across the state.
  • Heatwaves driven by climate change cause an increase in deaths and hospitalisations, and worsen air pollution. Those most at risk are children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

Says Dr Ben Ewald, ”Until now the debate has been about electricity cost and reliability, but the large health impact from air pollution cannot be ignored. The Turnbull Government must step away from its blind devotion to toxic coal energy and impose pollution fees on dirty generators to help them clean up their business or close the dirtiest plants first.

“Renewable energy  creates twice the number of jobs per gigawatt hour of coal-fired power as wind and solar farms spend money on maintenance staff, not fuel to be burned. We call for clean energy job creation to help regional communities currently employed in coal fired generation.

The inquiry into the retirement of coal-fired power stations, is currently holding public hearings around the country.

Dr John Van Der Kallen             0431 535 742
Dr Ben Ewald                            0422 378 042

Hearing details of the Senate Inquiry into Retirement of Coal-fired Power Stations 

Public hearings by the Standing Committee on Environment and Communications to assist its Inquiry into Retirement of Coal-fired Power Stations.

From 9am Wednesday, February 22. DEA is scheduled for 11.30am

Sydney Masonic Centre – Composite Room SMC Conference and Function Centre, 66 Goulburn Street, Sydney.


Broom R. Neal F.Christine T. et al The health benefits of reducing air pollution in Sydney, Australia. Environmental Research 2015;143:19-25

JOIN DEA NOW and make a difference! DONATE LEAVE A LEGACY make a bequest for future generations FACT SHEETS
ACNC Registered Charity



Who, What and Why


(part 1)

(part 2)


DEA Information Leaflet


DEA Information Brochure