Stop delaying national air pollution standards

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) are dangerous toxins that pollute local communities when coal is burned at power stations.

Repeated or prolonged exposure to even moderate concentrations of SO2 can cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, wheezing and lung damage.

Exposure to low levels of NOx can irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and lead to coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness and nausea. Breathing high levels of NOx can cause rapid burning, spasms and swelling of tissues in the throat and upper respiratory tract, reduced oxygenation of tissues and a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Australia’s first national air pollution standards were adopted in 1998. After 20 years, the standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) are being revised.

The process involves all nine Australian state, territory and Commonwealth governments and is being led by the Victorian Government.

But the process has stalled.

Read about this in The Guardian

It’s been two years since governments announced the standards would be reviewed. 

And we have just learnt that standards are unlikely to be decided on until 2020!

This is not because the process has been shelved, but because under our current system that’s how long it takes for all nine governments to agree on what should happen.

This is unacceptable.

A number of Australian communities are exposed daily to harmful levels of NOx and SO2. In particular, communities living in the shadow of coal-fired power stations cop a lot of pollution – coal power stations are the single biggest source of SO2 and NOx in Australia.

Recently, Environmental Justice Australia and the University of Melbourne’s Lung Health Research Centre brought together leading experts on air pollution and health to deliberate and tell governments what civil society thinks the standards should be.

It only took half a day for Australia’s leading experts to agree that:

  • Sulfur dioxide standards should be brought in line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations which are one tenth Australia’s current standards (a one-hour average of 7.6 parts per billion)
  • Standards for oxides of nitrogen should be consistent with international best practice
  • Air pollution standards set by Australian governments should provide an incentive for polluters to minimise toxic pollution (one model is the Load Based Licencing system adopted by the New South Wales Government). 
  • The current process of negotiating national standards between all governments must be thrown out and replaced with Commonwealth standards set by an independent national Environment Protection Authority.

If we can do it in half a day, governments can do it in 2018.

The process for setting national standards is failing Australian communities. Australians are being exposed to unacceptable levels of pollutants causing death and disease while governments go through their bureaucratic nightmare processes.

Take action - here's how

Please join with us to tell all state governments to fast track the setting of strong NOx and SO2 standards so they come into force next year. 2018.

And call for the Commonwealth to step in and make laws to allow an independent national EPA to set science-based standards that are binding on all governments.

Fill out the form on the right. Choose your state or territory. Amend the text if you like. Then submit. We will send a copy of every letter to Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg too.

More info

Read more about sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in EJA’s fact sheet.

Read this story from Guardian Australia: Delays causing needless exposure to dangerous toxins in Australia

 


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