Gladstone air quality questioned

IF Gladstone’s air outside is clear, then what’s it like in the workplace?

The release of the Human Health Risk Assessment Report two weeks ago by Queensland Health has raised more questions than it answered.

The concerns of Gladstone residents regarding air quality in their city are continually raised in relation to the numerous cases of self-reported asthma symptoms and the high rate of cancer across the Gladstone region.

The report states that “whilst particulates may provoke asthma symptoms, overall levels in the Gladstone air-shed are within current standards”.

However, it also states that “the contribution of occupational exposure to respiratory irritants to asthma symptoms in workers is unknown.”

Queensland Health Public Health Physician Dr Margaret Young said a large number of pollutants were monitored at multiple sites across the area.

“The contribution of occupational exposure to symptoms in adults to the reported rates of asthma symptoms cannot be quantified as the air quality testing was for outside ambient air only,” Dr Young said.

“At a pollution level, air pollutant levels don’t explain the excess of symptoms of asthma reported by members of the Gladstone community.”

The report highlights the difficulty of accounting for occupational and lifestyle factors and states that “(it) is unable to show how much workplace exposure to pollutants might contribute to asthma across the community”.

Gladstone Industry Leadership Group (GILG) chief executive Kurt Heidecker said the air emissions control technology employed by GILG members was designed not only to reduce emissions, but also to allow effective dispersion so that both environmental impact and workplace health and safety was not compromised.

“Workplace health and safety is the highest priority for all GILG members and is much more than just air quality,” Mr Heidecker said. “To deliver employee health and safety, health professionals are employed at each GILG member site to monitor workplace conditions.”

The Observer contacted the Department of Work Place Health and Safety, but by the time of print they had not replied.



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