Industry, smokers contribute to Gladstone pollution

GLADSTONE'S air is high on the list of the most polluted in Australia, but it's not solely the fault of industry projects.

A filthy combination of cigarette smoke, diesel emissions, coal operations, an aluminium smelter and chemical manufacturing are damaging our air at one of the fastest rates in Australia.

In March 2014, a patient was admitted to Gladstone Base Hospital every two days for a respiratory-related illness.

The polluted ranking was determined in a report released by Environment Justice Australia named Cleaning the Air: Why Australia Urgently Needs Effective National Air Pollution Laws.

The report, released on May 20, is a nationwide bid to establish a comprehensive benchmark to establish standards of air pollution, specifically in identifying a compliance standard for particulate matter.

"Air pollution in Australia is inadequately regulated, monitored and enforced," the report reads.

"Pollutant impacts vary but there is a consensus that there is no safe level of exposure for many of these pollutants, and that there are harmful impacts from exposure at levels even below the current air quality standards."

Particulate matter is defined as tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two and one half microns or less in width, causing haziness or reduced visibility in high levels of concentration.

Glen Eden mother Anne Noakes is one of the many who are concerned about elevated levels of chemical by-products.

"My son is four-years-old. What if we don't properly understand the implications of all this pollution until he is 40?" she said.

"Gladstone is my home, but we consider moving in order to provide a healthier lifestyle."

While industry is a primary source of concern for air pollution in Gladstone, the high prevalence of smokers in our region is also a cause for consideration.

No doubt, industry is one of the largest sources of air pollution in town. But a lot of people drive unneccessarily large vehicles for short periods of time too.

A total of 22% of the region's population smokes on a daily basis.

While emissions from the major industries in Gladstone are regulated by the Department of Environment and Resource Management, the effects of an estimated 14,000 smokers in the greater region is unmonitored and ambiguous.

"No doubt, industry is one of the largest sources of air pollution in town," said community welfare representative Heath Williams.

"But a lot of people drive unneccessarily large vehicles for short periods of time too.

"If people are so concerned, one they wouldn't live here and two they'd take a little more personal responsibility for their own emissions."

A 2010 final report titled Clean and Healthy Air for Gladstone Project is the most recent comprehensive research conducted into the health and societal effects of prolonged exposure to air pollution.

About 7.27% of the Gladstone population was surveyed via telephone, with half of the Gladstone respondents claiming they felt they had very little control over risks to their health.

Forty per cent claimed they had experienced itchy eyes, and a self-reported prevalence of asthma was 2% higher than the Queensland average.

A sombre warning also accompanies the risks of elevated levels of air pollution.

It has been estimated that each year more than 3000 Australians die premature deaths from urban air pollution.

Topics:  air quality health industry pollution smoking

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