Particulate Pollution is the New Asbestos - Tunnel Emissions Can Kill

Vanessa Knight

Tunnel Emissions Can Kill

Air pollution in Australia is inadequately regulated, monitored and enforced. It has been estimated that each year more than 3,000 Australians die premature deaths from urban air pollution.

This is just one of the conclusions from the Environmental Justice Australia (formerly the Environment Defenders Office, Victoria) in their report titled 'Clearing the air - Why Australia urgently needs effective national air pollution laws'.

They also stated that last year, a Senate Committee inquiry concluded that despite improvements in Australian air quality over the last two decades, air quality is still a significant problem in many parts of Australia.

Some communities are much more affected than others, depending on how close they are to pollution sources. The serious health consequences from exposure to the different sources of air pollution are now well established.

Pollutant impacts vary but there is a consensus that there is no ‘safe’ level of exposure for many of these pollutants and that there are harmful impacts from exposure at levels even below the current air quality standards.

At a recent protest against the emission stacks planned as a result of NorthCONnex, Doctors Against Pollution, a group of more than 200 medical doctors from various specialties, called for “world-class filtration and proper ventilation to be installed in the tunnel so emissions don’t build up and are filtered/ventilated along the tunnel length.”

Bioscientist Mark Curran from Residents Against Polluting Stacks said the protests against NorthConnex were not angry enough.

“Particulate pollution is called the new asbestos,” Mr Curran said.

Residents all over Sydney need to be angry that NorthCONnex and the WestCONnex plan to spew particulates in concentrated levels through the emission stacks that will accompany the tunnels and that according to medical experts, there are no safe levels of particulate concentration.

Is this what we really want for our city and our communities?