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If in doubt, turn CSG off: AMA

31 May 2013

Coal seam gas developments should be blocked where there is any doubt about their potential to cause serious and irreversible harm to health, according to the AMA.

In an important intervention in the gathering national debate about the safety of coal seam gas (CSG) mining, the AMA Federal Council has called for nationally-consistent standards requiring that all CSG developments be subject to rigorous and independent health risk assessments.

In its resolution, the Council urges that all existing CSG projects be regularly monitored for potential health effects, including air and ground water pollution, while any proposed developments be subject to health risk assessments that take into account environmental pollution.

Significantly, given the paucity of evidence so far gathered regarding the safety of CSG mining, the Council demands that, “in circumstances where there is insufficient evidence to ensure safety, the precautionary principle should apply”.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said this principle was essential, given the uncertainty over CSG safety and the potential for “serious and irreversible harms” to health.

“Despite the rapid expansion of CSG developments, the health impacts have not been adequately researched, and effective regulations that protect public health are not in place,” Dr Hambleton said.

“There is a lack of information on the chemicals used and wastes produced, insufficient data on cumulative health impacts, and a lack of comprehensive environmental monitoring and health impact assessments.”

The AMA President said regulation of CSG projects varied widely between the states, with some imposing health regulations while others virtually ignore the issue.

Dr Hambleton said the move by the Commonwealth to strengthen environmental protection laws regarding the affect of CSG projects on water resources was welcome, but greater safeguards were needed.

“The assessment of the health impacts of CSG developments needs to strengthened and made consistent across all jurisdictions,” he said.


Image by kateausburn on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

Published: 31 May 2013