AMA supports Senate inquiry call for air quality health checks
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today commended the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee report, Impacts on health of air quality in Australia, which responds strongly to community concerns about the health effects of air pollution.
Dr Hambleton said that a number of the report’s recommendations are 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.
In its Key Health Issues for the 2013 Federal Election document, the AMA recommended to the major parties a blueprint for better environmental health that includes:
The AMA calls on the next Government to establish a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change that incorporates:
- climate change as a health and medical research priority;
- strong communication links between hospitals, major medical centres, GPs and emergency response agencies;
- localised disaster management plans;
- surveillance measures to prevent exotic diseases from becoming established;
- development of effective interventions to address mental health issues arising from extreme events; and
- a register of recently retired, competent medical practitioners who are willing to assist in providing medical services during a national emergency.
The AMA believes that improved air quality can be achieved through:
- development of nationally consistent air quality standards and monitoring guidelines to support reductions in ultrafine particulates, including particulates from vehicles and stationary sources;
- enforcement of nationally consistent and comprehensive occupational health and safety standards and policies which focus on industries and occupations with the greatest risks of exposure to airborne hazards; and
- initiating further research to investigate the health impacts and costs to communities from air pollution, including the dispersal patterns and health impacts of fine and ultrafine particulates.
Coal Seam Gas
The AMA believes that:
- all existing coal seam gas extraction projects should be regularly monitored for any health affects and the presence of air and ground water pollutants in their local environment;
- all future proposals for coal seam gas mining should be subject to rigorous and independent health risk assessments, which take into account the potential for exposure to pollutants through air and ground water and any likely associated health risks;
- in circumstances where there is insufficient evidence to ensure safety, the precautionary principle should apply; and
- these initiatives should apply to all unconventional gas extraction, including shale gas.
AMA Key Health Issues for the 2013 Federal Election is available on the AMA website at https://ama.com.au/keyhealthissues
16 August 2013
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Published: 16 Aug 2013