Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and Wollongong Councillor Jill Merrin met today with locals and the Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining group at Bellambi station to call for national air quality standards that properly incorporate fine particles to better monitor air quality and its impacts on the health of local residents impacted by coal dust from uncovered coal train wagons.
"There is too little protection for communities up and down coal train line from the health hazards of PM2.5 and even finer coal dust pollution," Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon said.
"Coal train wagons must be covered and air quality monitored against world class national air quality standards that reflect the true potential risk to community health.
"There are only ‘advisory' standards against which fine particles PM 2.5 are measured in NSW. The even smaller ultrafine PM1 particles are not monitored at all.
"Further, four of the air-monitoring stations in the Illawarra have been decommissioned, with only three now active at Albion Park, Albion Park South and Wollongong.
"It appears the Illawarra is the poor cousin to the Hunter when it comes to state government attention to the risks of coal related respiratory and other health problems.
"In the Hunter an Air Pollution Expert Advisory Committee has been set up and NSW Health has invested funding in research and more accurate air quality monitoring.
"Fine particles from coal dust are a particular health risk for people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children.
"Ultra fine particles are more dangerous due to their size and ability to be trapped deep in the lungs.
"Illawarra residents have for too long copped poor air quality as a result of being home to polluting industries and its location downwind from Sydney.
"Both the State and Federal governments must act to better protect and improve air quality in the Illawarra region. Covering coal train wagons, in a similar way to coal trucks, is an important start," Senator Rhiannon said.