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Major focus on health impacts of Mt Piper power station (Lithgow Mercury)

A public forum on the ‘Health impacts of coal-fired power stations in NSW’ was held on Wednesday, November 28 at Uniting Church Parish Hall.

Speakers at the forum included Dr Ben Ewald, Dr James Whelan EJA and Dr Richard Stiles.

Around 20 residents of the Lithgow region attended to discuss air pollution in Australia and its links to asthma, reduced birthweight, diabetes and premature death.

Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) recently commissioned a report into the health impacts of air pollution from NSW power stations.

The findings of the report were delivered by the author Dr Ben Ewald, an epidemiologist and air pollution expert, at the public forum.

According to Dr Ewald, 279 deaths, 233 cases of reduced birth-weight and 361 cases of diabetes can be attributed to air pollution.

“There are different particles but the ones that matter are those that are inhalable,” he said.

“We need air monitors in Lithgow because currently we don’t know what is in the air.”

According to the National Pollutant Inventory data Mt Piper releases 22,021 Nitrogen Dioxides (NOx), 32,000 Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and 59 Primary PM2.5 particles.

“Lithgow needs extra ambient air monitoring.”

Dr Ewald recommended modern pollution control technology, tighter emissions limits, better stack monitoring and more research.

“If we can get clean air today we would have healthier babies by January,” he said.

Dr James Wheelan from Environment Justice Australia spoke on behalf of lawyer Bronya Lipski, who could not attend the meeting.

Local health GP Richard Stiles said Lithgow’s health figures stuck out compared to the state average.

“We have improved over the past 10 years but we are still a long way behind the state,” he said.

Dr Stiles called for local activism, wanting more voices to be heard.

“We need more than one air pollution monitor because if it’s put in the wrong spot and there is upwind we might not know accurate results,” he said.

This story was published by the Lithgow Mercury on 3 December 2018.

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