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26 Aug 2013

The AMA has commended the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee report, Impacts on health of air quality in Australia, which responded strongly to community concerns about the health effects of air pollution.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said that a number of the report’s recommendations were consistent with AMA policy on air quality and health.

“Air quality can affect people’s health,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Current air quality standards have failed to keep pace with scientific evidence, and many hazardous pollutants are not subject to routine or independent monitoring.

“The enforcement of existing standards is poor and fragmented.

“We need stronger regulation and monitoring of emerging industries, such as coal seam gas extraction and other non-conventional mining operations, that affect the environment.

“Health assessments should be conducted before new mining operations commence, and the same strict air quality standards should be applied to current conventional practices, including the transport of coal in uncovered wagons.

“To this effect, we welcome the report’s recommendation for health impact assessments for new developments, and other recommendations for air quality monitoring, research and data collection.”

In May this year, the AMA Federal Council passed the following resolution:

That Federal Council adopts the policy resolution urging governments to ensure that:

all existing coal seam gas extraction projects are regularly monitored for any health impacts and the presence of air and ground-water pollutants in their local environment; and,

all future proposals for coal seam gas mining are subject to rigorous and independent health risk assessments, which take into account the potential for exposure to pollutants through air and groundwater and any likely associated health risks. In circumstances where there is insufficient evidence to ensure safety, the precautionary principle should apply.

John Flannery

Image by Toby Oxborrow on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

Published: 26 Aug 2013