Coal power comes with $2.6b health bill

A new report on pollution from coal power stations finds the health effects on nearby communities could be eased greatly if emissions were cut.

Health problems associated with pollution from Australia's ageing fleet of coal-fired power stations costs the nation $2.6 billion a year.

Children and the elderly are especially prone to the lengthy list of health problems including asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke, respiratory disease, headaches, nausea, bronchitis, choking and coughing, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, the new analysis from Environmental Justice Australia shows.

People who live within 50km of a coal-fired power station are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than those further away.

Newcastle GP Ben Ewald says coal power stations and mines are managed in a way that's optimised to make the most profits, not to look after public health.

He cites the example of NSW town Muswellbrook, which hosts large coal mines and electricity producers.

"Those people should be protected, especially children in those communities," he says.

"They're not making money out of burning coal; they should be protected from these air pollution exposures that we know are bad for their health."

Latrobe Valley resident Graeme Wilson told the report authors he'd noticed a distinct improvement in his health since the nearby Hazelwood generator closed earlier this year.

He said when it was open, there was little communication with local residents about air pollution levels and no follow-up to complaints he made to environmental protection authorities.

People who live near other power stations tell of having homes covered in dust and even having to wipe grime from washing that's been drying outside.

The report released on Tuesday finds the health issues of communities near coal generators - and the cost of dealing with them - could be reduced greatly if emission limits were tightened and better policed.

Different states in Australia impose different emission limits - measured at different locations from the generator - and most are well above international standards such as those used in Europe, the US or China.

The report says the level of scrutiny to ensure generators stick to these limits is "unacceptable", especially since there's no national oversight.

It also says pollution reduction technologies commonly used overseas for many years could significantly cut emissions of noxious gases and particles but aren't fitted on Australian generators.

3 min read
Published 15 August 2017 at 12:08am
Source: AAP