Doctors urge Tasmania’s Environment Minister Matthew Groom to support the adoption of strong national air pollution standards at Tuesday’s 15 December meeting of state and federal environment ministers, and reduce the 3000 deaths attributed to air pollution every year.

The much-awaited meeting follows a number of community campaigns across Australia as well as government inquiries and reports spanning more than a decade.

Air pollution is a silent killer. It’s linked to 3000 Australian deaths a year- approximately twice the number of road fatalities.

Long-term exposure, even at very low levels, increases heart disease, asthma and is now recognised as a cause of lung cancer, just like cigarette smoking.

Those who are especially at risk are children, the elderly and those with pre-existing heart and lung diseases.

Current laws do not adequately protect Australians from air pollution, and regulation is weak or non-existent.

Medical advocacy group Doctors for the Environment Australia spokesperson, Dr Rohan Church says: “The science is clear- there is no doubt as to the need for immediate action to adequately protect the health of the community from the harmful effects of air pollution.

“As concerned doctors we strongly urge Minister Matthew Groom to help set legally binding air quality standards at the meeting tomorrow that will protect the health of Tasmanians and all Australians.”

DEA wants to see annual and daily standards for fine particulate of 8ug and 25ug per cubic metre and for coarse particulates of 20ug and 40ug per cubic metre. Establishing an annual limit for coarse particulates is especially important to prevent lung cancer in non smokers.

“We must stop playing political football with this issue and do something about the costs- both to health and also the health budget,” says Dr Church. “We know from overseas experience that reducing air pollution has significant health benefits.

“The US Environmental Protection Authority has studied the effects of the 1970 Clean Air Act and in 2011 concluded that for every dollar spent on improving air quality, about $30 was being saved. This is a terrific return by anyone’s estimate.”

About DEA

DEA is an independent health advocacy organisation of medical doctors raising awareness of the link between health and the environment

We are supported by a scientific advisory committee of:

Professor Stephen Boyden AM; Professor Peter Doherty AC, FRS, FAA; Professor Bob Douglas AO; Professor Dave Griggs; Professor Michael Kidd AM; Professor David de Kretser AC; Professor Steve Leeder AO; Professor Ian Lowe AO; Professor Robyn McDermott; Professor Peter Newman; Sir Gustav Nossal, AC, CBE, FAA, FRS; Professor Hugh Possingham; Professor Lawrie Powell AC; Professor Fiona Stanley AC; Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM; Norman Swan.
Carmela Ferraro