Our $47M health bill

A GROUP of health organisations is making sure the fight against coal mining in the Hunter Valley plays a significant role in the upcoming state election.

On Monday, the coalition of 28 health organisations released its report into the region’s coal mining industry, Coal and Health in the Hunter, where it states the health bill for the Singleton community each year due to adverse effects caused by mining is $47 million. 

The report was prepared by the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), a not-for-profit organisation that says its aim is to advocate for the protection and promotion of health from the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

CAHA have called for a ban on new coal projects and an orderly transition away from coal via the development of renewable energy and further employment growth through the assistance for existing industries in the region including tourism and agriculture.

In support of their report, an open letter signed by high-profile figures including former Australians of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley and Professor Tim Flannery and former NASA scientist James Hansen, and 23 other academics and public health experts, was sent to NSW Premier demanding the phasing out of coal production in the Hunter. 

The report is a scathing assessment of the coal industry and its impact on community health and the environment and the serious impacts of coal mining on other industries in the region – it’s really a case of taking the fight up the NSW Minerals Council.

Whereas the NSW Minerals Council argues strongly about the economic benefits to the region from the expansion of coal mining, the reports claims the health, social and economic costs far outweigh the industry’s benefits.

In the report it says coal produced in the Hunter Valley in 2013 was 145 million tonnes and this is expected to increase to 243mtpa by 2022 due to the expansion from existing mines and 21 proposed new mines.

It is the sheer scale of the coal industry and its rapid expansion in the last decade that worries the authors of the report.

“Once renowned for its clean air, the Hunter Valley was identified in 2014 as an air pollution ‘hotspot’ with the national standard for PM10 ( air pollutants) exceeded 118 times in 2013 across 11 air quality monitors in the Upper Hunter,” according to the report.

“Despite being a rural village, Camberwell has higher monthly maximum levels of PM 10 than Rozelle, a suburb in Sydney’s inner west.”

The reports says long term PM10 exposure was associated with the  development of lung cancer in a recent large European study and short term exposure can trigger adverse health responses leading to hospital admissions.

And it is not only the air pollution form the actual mine sites that raises concerns in the report as each year 22,000 trains with four million wagons travel through the Hunter Valley to the port of Newcastle – uncovered. 

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