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NSW high air pollution - urgent need for new woodheater standards

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 16 Jun 2011

The Greens have called for the efforts in improving vehicle emissions standards to be extended to woodheaters, responsible for more than a third of hazardous fine particle emissions in Sydney and two-thirds in Canberra. (Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 2011)

Particles known as PM2.5 are the most hazardous air pollutant, estimated to cause 10 to 20 times as many premature deaths as the next worst pollutant, ozone.

“With the winter months upon us the government needs to introduce a new health-based standard for wood heaters as a matter of urgency,” Greens NSW Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon said today.

“A new woodheater can emit more than 1,000 times as many PM2.5 per year as a new passenger car.

“Attempts to introduce cleaner woodheaters in Australia stalled in March 2007 when the woodheating industry vetoed recommendations of the Standards Australia Committee tasked with setting new emissions limits.

Ms Rhiannon is working with Dr Dorothy Robinson, author of a peer-reviewed paper to be published in Atmospheric Pollution Research on health costs and global warming from wood heaters, and a Greens Councillor on Armidale Dumaresq Council.

The Greens are calling for a moratorium on new installations until a health-based standard has been set, and a national woodsmoke reduction program, similar to the federally-funded $2.05 million program in Launceston, for pollution hot spots.

“With rural areas such as Armidale suffering much higher pollution than Sydney, such a program will help to reduce the health costs of particulate pollution from existing wood heaters,” Dr Robinson said.

“Adopting European vehicle emission standards will reduce health costs for the whole of Australia over 20 years by $1.5 billion. This is less than the estimated cost of woodsmoke pollution in Sydney for just two years.

“The new vehicle emission standards are a breakthrough but only deal with a fraction of the air pollution problem caused by fine particles known as PM2.5. In Sydney, light duty diesel vehicles emit 6.4% of PM2.5, petrol cars 6.1%, and heavy duty diesel vehicles 5.2%.

“Woodheaters are the chief air pollution culprit in Sydney causing 34.3% of PM2.5 emissions.

Ms Rhiannon added, “The shift away from polluting woodheaters should be a health and economic priority for the federal government.

“Reduced PM2.5 pollution means fewer heart and lung diseases, less visits to GPs, and reduced risk of cot-death and other serious childhood diseases such as bronchiolitis.”

For more information – Lee Rhiannon 0427 861 568
Dr Dorothy Robinson - 02 6772 6475 or 042 0842 866

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