MEDIA ALERT: Families lied to about danger from toxic air pollution
As families take their young children back to school they are confronting the disturbing evidence the Berejiklian government has lied to them about the threat posed by one of the most deadly forms of air pollution, PM 2.5.
The Coalition Against WestConnex (CAW) has revealed a report is being compiled using the State government’s own figures - collected by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and WestConnex monitors - that shows extraordinary levels of exposure to PM 2.5. This is a form of pollution known to cause heart disease, strokes and respiratory illness and, in Sydney alone, is responsible for 520 premature deaths each year according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
The first instalment of the report reveals air monitors in Sydney’s Inner West at Haberfield have recorded the higher annual levels of PM 2.5 than any other monitors in the Sydney basin – including those located in the coal-mining centre of the Hunter.
While scientific research has shown there is no safe level of exposure to PM 2.5, the national limit is 8 μg/m3 on a daily average over a year. Now that it can been seen from the whole year’s data, January to December 2018, Ramsay Street Haberfield was 46% higher than that with 11.6 recorded, the monitor inside Haberfield School was 40% higher at 11.2, and Powells Creek Strathfield was 22.5% at 10.2. (See graph above)
In June 2018 air quality monitors at St Peters public school in Sydney's Inner West recorded the highest average levels of PM 10 – another form of air pollution – than any other Sydney monitoring site during the first three months of that year.
In June 2018, the WestConnex Action Group wrote to the Ministers for Health and Environment raising their concerns about the level of exposure to this around the St Peters and Haberfield sites. Mark Coure, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure, responded writing,
“I am further advised the readings experience at the Haberfield Public School monitoring station are much similar to other monitoring stations on the New M4 and NSW Environment Protection Authority monitoring stations across Sydney. The results to date do not indicate the Haberfield Public School monitoring station is measuring anything otherthan the regional pollution level with normal variations across the day.”
“The Premier knows that’s not true,” said Christina Ho, mother of two primary school-aged children in St Peters. “Yet she is asking me to send my kids into this toxic soup every day, knowing full well how dangerous it is for their health,” said Christina Ho. “Little kids are more vulnerable than any other members of our community and she expects them to study and play in this dangerous level of pollution.”
“Right now it is the communities of Haberfield and St Peters which are most exposed to these high levels of particle pollution,” said Anne Picot a local resident. “But as WestConnex – with all its unfiltered tunnels - rolls out across Sydney tens of thousands more will be exposed to it. My question is what are the Premier and the Opposition leader going to do about it? We expect PM2.5 air pollution will be made worse permanently once the tunnels open with unfiltered exhaust stacks. Why doesn't the Premier care about Sydney's kids?"
The health of the public in exposed localities, particularly children, the elderly and anyone with an existing chronic disease will inevitably be adversely affected. There will be more premature deaths and more chronic disease. Yet, according to medical specialists in respiratory health, it is possible to reduce the impact if the long road tunnels were fitted with adequate filtration systems. The question remains why won’t the government do this.
The reports can be found at:
For more information contact
Anne Picot: 0404 090 710
Wendy Bacon: 0409 403 774
The Coalition Against WestCONnex is a network of community groups opposed to WestConnex:
Camperdown Residents Against WestConnex (CRAW)
Leichhardt Against WestCONnex (LAW)
Newtown Residents Against WestConnex (NRAW)
No WestConnex Annandale
No WestCONnex: Public Transport (NoWPT)
Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW)
Save Ashfield Park (SAP)
Save Newtown from WestConnex
Stop WestConnex - Glebe and Forest Lodge
WestCON Community Action Group Haberfield/Ashfield
WestCONnex Action Group (WAG)
Note to Editors
The report has been prepared by researcher, journalist, and stop WestConnex activist Wendy Bacon, and software developer and open data specialist, Henare Degan. For further information contact Wendy Bacon: 0409 403 774
Background on PM 2.5 air pollution
What is PM 2.5 and why does it matter?
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that long-term exposure to PM 2.5 may lead to plaque deposits in arteries, causing vascular inflammation and a hardening of the arteries that can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. Scientists in the study estimated that for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) increase in fine particulate air pollution, there is an associated 4%, 6% and 8% increased risk of all-cause, cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality, respectively.
The American Heart Association has also warned about the impact of PM 2.5 has on heart health and mortality:
“Exposure to PM <2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) over a few hours to weeks can trigger cardiovascular disease-related mortality and nonfatal events; longer-term exposure (eg, a few years) increases the risk for cardiovascular mortality to an even greater extent than exposures over a few days and reduces life expectancy within more highly exposed segments of the population by several months to a few years.”
It is worth noting that while traffic on the WestConnex tollway will continue to produce dangerously high levels of PM2.5 for decades, the construction phase is anticipated to go on for at least seven years and this will also add to the toxic load of pollution.
An association between mothers’ exposure to fine particles and birth defects has also been established by several reports. Children, older adults and those who are suffering from lung and/or heart disease are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of fine particles in the air and should take special precautions when ambient PM 2.5 crosses unhealthy levels.
Extensive scientific research has shown that there is no safe level of PM 2.5, which is linked to heart disease, cancer, premature birth and can impact lung and brain development.
More recently, research has shown that PM 2.5 may be linked to increased risks of dementia.
In 2017, University of Sydney Professor of Respiratory Medicine Paul Torzillo told a meeting in Camperdown (where a major WestConnex Stage 3 construction site is planned) that,
“Every major program and project like this around the world leads to more cars and more vehicles coming into cities. It's been very well looked at by a number of research groups. Every single infrastructure project like this leads to more cars and more vehicles coming into cities and you have a greater contribution to air pollution from traffic-related pollution.
“Traffic-related pollution – there is a huge amount of evidence that air pollution increases death from cardiovascular disease, that's the leading cause of death in Australia. It leads to increased hospital admissions from heart disease. It leads to increased stroke. It leads to increased respiratory disease, and it leads to increased deaths from respiratory disease. It leads to higher rates of low birth weight in kids. And there are major reviews by WHO that occur every few years or from groups that are consulted by them and every time one of these reviews occurs the evidence about the strength of the relationship between pollution and bad health get stronger and stronger. There's no question about this...It’s absolutely true that pollution levels for half a kilometre each side of roads are much higher than they are outside that. Pollution levels will be higher at entry and exit points. They'll be higher at stack points. But there are big measurement problems here."
Professor Paul Torzillo, Executive Clinical Director and Head of Respiratory Medicine at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) hospital, May 2017.
Watch the video of Professor Torzillo's speech.