A visiting expert on low frequency noise (LFN) described its impact as being similar to your body being continually punched.
Associate Professor Mariana Alves-Pereira was in Bulga this week talking to residents about the impacts of LFN and how current measurement regimes do not provide accurate data for assessing those impacts.
“Noise is an inate mechanical force – its like a pressure wave or explosion hitting your body and your body’s cells react to that punch. So if you live near a 24/7 source of LFN then it has damages your health, ” said Dr Perira.
For Bulga residents battling to stop expanding open cut coal mines her words confirmed their worst fears – living next door to a mine is dangerous.
Dr Pereira from Lisbon’s Lusofona University in Portugal has spent nearly 30 years researching the health impacts of LFN.
Based on longitudinal occupational studies of aircraft technicians Dr Pereria and her team have found the workers suffered from heart and lung damage and an increased risk of tumours.
“We have seen cognitive changes and way above the national average of epilepsy among the workers,” she said.
But she said environmental cases of LFN diseases occurred more quickly than occupational affects.
“Why? Because if you live near a source of LFN and that source operates round the clock every day of the year, unlike workers who go home and can rest, you can’t and your body never gets a chance to recover,” she said.
She cited the case of the Puerto Rico’s Island of Vieques where the US Navy had a base. “The population of that island had poor health outcomes due to continual LFN from the naval base activities,” she said.
Her other piece of advice was for government’s to base their measurements of LFN on linear decibels not weighted decibels that screen out noise frequency.
Hunter Communities Network, spokesperson Bev Smiles was concerned that the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) review of the state’s Industrial Noise Policy may weaken what she described as an inadequate level of protection for rural communities.
“People living near mines are already impacted by poor noise management under the current Industrial Noise Policy. Proposed changes by the EPA will make those impacts worse, “ she said.
“The issue of measurement and management of mine noise is very secretive and needs a complete overhaul. The EPA has not conducted an open process in the review of the Policy. The health of rural residents near mines is at stake.”