Media release

Avoidable deaths caused by lax air pollution standards: Air pollution summit calls for a national Air Pollution Control Act and a national regulator

November 13, 2015

Air pollution results in 3,000 premature deaths each year in Australia, costing the nation between $11 and $24.3 billion per annum in health costs.

Health, community and environment groups meet tomorrow in Melbourne as part of their national clean air campaign.

“Air pollution in Australia’s major cities, coal-mining regions, coal transport corridors, and communities near coal-fired power stations and motorways is causing avoidable deaths. Australians require a much stronger regulatory approach,” said Environmental Justice Australia’s Clean Air Lawyer Phil Hill.

“State governments are unable to ensure air pollution standards are adequate and adhered to,” said Mr Hill. ”It’s time for a strong national Air Pollution Control Act and a regulator to enforce it.”

The Summit comes just four weeks before Australia’s nine environment ministers meet with an aim to agree on new national standards for particle pollution. Australia’s current standards were adopted in 1998 and now lag behind the advice and expectations of the World Health Organisation and health experts. The ministers’ meeting will also finalise a National Clean Air Agreement aimed at improving the nation’s preventable air pollution problem.

However, Environment ministers are expected to have difficulty reaching agreement on national particle pollution standards when they meet on 15 December. Victorian Environment Minister Lisa Neville is advocating stricter standards, whereas NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman is under pressure from coal mining companies to maintain current standards.

“Fine particle pollution is a serious health problem, predicted to get worse in many urban areas and is not effectively managed by state governments,” said Doctors for the Environment Australia’s Dr Ben Ewald.

“Our environment ministers understand that air pollution kills twice as many Australians prematurely each year as motor vehicle accidents, yet state governments continue to approve and licence major polluters in and near population centres that are already over-polluted,” said Dr Ewald.

Groups participating in the summit include: the Climate and Health Alliance, Doctors for the Environment Australia, Environment Victoria, the Queensland Conservation Council, PeterMac Cancer Centre, the Mackay Conservation Group, Clean Air Queensland, the Australian Air Quality Group, GetUp and Friends of the Earth.

The Summit will be opened by Senator Richard Di Natale. The leader of the Australian Greens is an advocate for a national Clean Air Act. The Summit program also includes the launch of the Clean Air Action Network website.

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