April 2, 2015 - Release from National Toxics Network
National Pollution Inventory data confirms health threats from unconventional gas air pollution are increasing
The latest data from the National Pollution Inventory (NPI) confirm that Australian families continue to be exposed to serious immediate and long term, even generational health risks from increasing levels of air pollution from unconventional gas (UG) activities. Many thousands of tonnes of toxic chemicals are being pumped into the air and breathed in by infants and the elderly alike.
“We have long known that harmful pollutants are emitted from this industry including toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the cancer causing chemical benzene, nitrous oxide and particulate matter. These are dangerous enough on their own but combine to make a really poisonous toxic soup,” said Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, Senior Advisor, National Toxics Network.
“The adverse effects of particulate matter are well documented and there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur. The combined air pollutants can result in serious health impacts such as cancer, respiratory disease, heart attacks and stroke.”
Australia is one of the few countries where the UG companies are required to self-report to the government’s NPI. The data over the last five years has shown the UG industry is a significant source of air pollution including particulates (PM10, PM2.5), nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCS), and the quantities are increasing. The latest data from 2013-14 show many thousands of tonnes of toxic chemicals are being released into the air by the UG industry and that quantities of pollutants released continue to grow.
In 2013, the World Health Organization declared that outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic, yet, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the health implications of UG air pollutants particularly for residents living close to the gasfields and for the exposure of their children and babies who are so much more vulnerable to this toxic mixture.
“Peer reviewed reports indicate increased risk of cancer in people who live close to gas development; they also indicate increased risk of low birth weight babies and babies with congenital heart defects,” said Queensland GP, Dr Geralyn McCarron.
Confirming that the treatment of coal seam gas was a major source of air pollution, particulate matter (PM) for the QGC’s Kenya Processing Plant (ATP620) and Compressor Stations near Tara, rose from 5,400 kilograms of PM10 and PM2.5 in 2011/12 to 342,000kgs in 2013-2014 (63 times greater than 2011/12). The facility also released many tonnes of nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. In 2013-14, QGC’s other Windibri Processing Plant (PL201) and Compressor Stations reported the extraordinary figure of 1,316,000 kg for their total particulate matter emissions.
QGC’s report for their Ruby Jo field in Tara for 2013-14, showed their emissions for the poisonous carbon monoxide had doubled to 1,600,000 kg while Nitrous oxides were reported at 810,000 kg, well up from the previous reporting year’s 230,000 kg.
“In 2013-14, it doesn't matter whether it’s CSG or shale gas, both emit large quantities of VOCs and other contaminants and while individual projects may report moderate figures, the numerous gasfields and infrastructure in a single region add up to significant and health threatening numbers.”
Despite the published medical literature reaffirming the widely held concerns about the health impacts of unconventional gas development, the Queensland government as well as the governments of West Australia and South Australia are relentlessly pushing on with their policy of developing the industry insisting that it can “co-exist” with regional communities and farming. This latest data from the NPI clearly demonstrates that this is a false premise.
Dr Lloyd-Smith 0413621557;
Dr Geralyn McCarron 0452218448;
Mrs Shay Dougall @ Hopeland Community Sustainability Group (07) 4665 4072