Air pollution increases 69 per cent as coal named top polluter (Newcastle Herald)

Sunday 17/04/16 Newcastle Herald | Josh Dye and Matthew Kelly

NEWCASTLE’S three coal terminals accounted for 62 per cent of the city's coarse particle pollution last financial year, new data shows.

An analysis of the National Pollutant Inventory's 2014-15 report also reveals air quality across Australia has deteriorated to alarming levels with the coal industry the nation's worst polluter. 

The most concerning rise in air pollution is from PM10, a coarse pollution particle about the width of a human hair. Nationally, total PM10 emissions have increased 69 per cent in one year, and 194 per cent in five years.

Environmental Justice Australia researcher Dr James Whelan said the findings raise serious questions about the future of Australia's air quality and called for tougher federal government regulation.

Watching the continuing escalation of air pollution across Australia, particularly from coal mines and coal-fired power stations, is like seeing a car speed faster and faster with no police response.

Air pollution kills more than 3000 Australians every year, almost three times the annual road toll, and costs the nation more than $24 billion in health care costs.

Dr Whelan said reducing particle pollution is critical to avoiding a public health crisis in mining areas.

Particle pollution accounts for more than 90 per cent of the total health impacts of air pollution in general.

Dr Whelan said just like smoking, there is no safe level of particle pollution. 

Any reduction has direct health benefits including preventing premature death, he said.

While PM10 emissions from the coal industry have fallen 8 per cent in 2014-15 to just under 400,000 tonnes, they have increased 84 per cent over the past five years.

Other findings from Environmental Justice Australia's analysis include: 

Coal companies reported almost 400,000 tonnes of PM10, an 84 per cent increase in the past five years.

Newcastle's three coal terminals account for 62 per cent of the city's PM10 emissions (295,000kg this year)

PM10 emissions from Maules Creek coal mine increased 187 per cent in 2014-15

A NSW Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman said air quality  in NSW was generally good by international standards. 

She said the 2015 NSW Annual Air Quality Statementfound air quality was very good, good or fair at least 95 per cent of the time in the Sydney and Hunter regions and almost 100 per cent of the time in all other NSW regions. This is similar to the results from 2014.

“The latest NPI results are promising and they reflect the improvements in air quality we have experienced over the last 20-30 years.”

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