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Issue #1638      May 14, 2014

Hazelwood Coal Mine Fire

Local inquiry sessions end

Justice Bernard Teague wrapped up the local consultation with residents of the La Trobe Valley on April 17.

During the course of the public consultation the residents of Morwell, Traralgon and nearby areas left no doubt that they had been kept in the dark by authorities on long term health effects from the toxic gasses and particulate matter. They also criticised the Napthine Victorian government for inadequate funding for the clean-up.

The 14,000 residents of Morwell are desperate for information about what health problems will come in five, 10 or 20 years. The Chief Health Officer, Rosemary Lester, has not told residents what the long term health problems may be. It’s not difficult to find out as there have been a number of international and national epidemiological studies on populations living near coal fired power stations and open cut coal mines. Their findings show alarming health effects from pollution. One Australian study in the Hunter region of NSW has found that adults (and whole populations) in communities near coal-fired power stations and coal combustion facilities have:

  • Increased risk of death from lung, laryngeal and bladder cancer.
  • Increased risk of skin cancer (other than melanoma).
  • Increased asthma rates and respiratory symptoms.

Children, infants and foetal outcomes in communities near coal-fired power stations and coal combustion facilities have been found to have:

  • Oxidative deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage.
  • High rates of pre-term birth, low birth weight, miscarriages and still birth.
  • Impaired foetal growth and neurological development.
  • Increased asthma rates and respiratory symptoms.

Working example: the residents of Port Augusta SA live near the coal-fired Playford Power Station and have double the state average for lung cancer. The steel city of Whyalla has a coke furnace; residents have 51 percent more cases of lung cancer than the state average.

There is no such thing as clean coal and it must be replaced with renewable energy. Residents of Port Augusta have been campaigning for solar thermal energy to replace the high polluting old stations. People must keep pushing governments and stay focused until the goal has been reached.

Next article – No cuts! No fees! No corporate universities!

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