More than 3,000 Australians die every year due to air pollution. According to newly-released report by Environmental Justice Australia, air pollution is inadequately monitored and regulated in Australia.
The environmental organisation has urged the Australian government to form a national scheme for air pollution to be implemented in all states and territories. Environmental Justice Director of Advocacy and Research Nicola Rivers said the government should prevent the deaths of 3,000 people annually. She said the figure may be higher in 2014 since the research was based on 2007 data.
Air pollution is measured using concentrations of PM particles. The PM2.5 particle is the most harmful to health because it is smaller in size and can easily affect the lungs.
Tiny particles in polluted air, known as PM2.5, were identified as risk factors to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. According to Rivers, the levels of harmful air particles were not being regulated. If exposed, the tiny particles can penetrate the lungs, especially those coming from coal-fired power stations, coal mines and diesel-powered vehicles.
The report said majority of Australians think they have clean air, but the PM2.5 levels could be “extremely high” in some areas. Rivers said one street in Melbourne is where about 7,000 diesel cars pass by every day.
The report said Australians living in Frances St, Yarraville, are concerned about their health and the impact of the fumes coming from the passing vehicles. Previous studies have revealed its PM2.5 levels have exceeded recommended levels.
Despite the health risks of urban air pollution, in a meeting in April, the environmental ministers of Australia’s states and territories have decided to abandon plans of establishing a national air pollution plan by 2016.
Rivers said the ministers have decided only to “work towards” an agreement in 2016, but she said the organisation was not sure if it was going to happen.
Environmental Justice Australia has identified the “worse hot spots” for air pollution in the country. The list includes coal mining regions NSW’s Hunter Valley, Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and areas near industrial sites like Port Pirie and others near major highways and railroads.