Dangerous air pollution from coal-fired power stations in Australia?
I am interested in the following claim made below: "People who live within 50km of coal-fired power stations face a risk of premature death as much as three to four times that of people living further away."
I have read the large and glossy report from which that statistic is allegedly taken but can find no mention of it there. It must be a very fleeting mention if it is there at all. There was certainly nothing like the formal research report that one would expect to underlie such a claim: No details of sampling or control for demographic statistics, no table of results etc.
With all Green/Left writing the thing to identify is what they do NOT say. They regularly just leave out information that would damage their case. As it happens I have some research background in this field so I know what they have left out. They did not do an attitude study. They did not try to find out how bothered people were by the alleged pollution. They put up a few anecdotes about that but anecdotes prove nothing. You can always find people dissatisfied with anything if you look hard for them.
My survey of the effect of living near a coal mine showed that people did NOT have elevated environmental concerns as a result of that proximity. And my study was an orthodox and fully described one. So there is no doubt in existence a degree of pollution associated with Australia's coal mines but it is at a level that is only a minor irritant to those affected by it. My study was of coal mines in 1980 but, as the report below mentions, the power stations at the time were generally located just about on top of the mines
The report is a beat up. Just more Greenie deception. It was put out by Environmental Justice Australia so I had no real expectation that it would be a work of objective science. It is just propaganda
AUSTRALIA is trailing behind places like China when it comes to pollution standards and those living near coal-fired power stations are three times more likely to die a premature death, according to a new report.
Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) found Australian power stations are allowed to emit far more pollution than those in the US, China and parts of the European Union, and they are not being regulated well enough to protect human health or the environment.
The toxins produced by coal-fired power stations can have a deadly impact on those living nearby. People who live within 50km are about three to four times more likely to die a premature death as those living further away.
The report looked at four pollutants that are extremely harmful to health and have been linked to asthma, respiratory problems, stroke, angina, heart attack and cancer.
It found coal-fired power stations emitted more than 30 toxic substances and are the biggest sources of fine particles PM2.5, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.
“The mercury limits for some NSW power stations are 666 times higher than the US limits. This is unacceptable,” the report said.
“In almost all cases the emissions limits applied to Australian power stations are significantly less stringent than the standards in the European Union, United States and China.”
What controls that are in place are also not well monitored and rarely enforced.
The EJA has made eight recommendations including that the Federal Government commission an independent assessment of health impacts, develop national emission standards, ask for better monitoring and commit to not building, financing or approving any new coal-fired power stations.
When it comes to air pollution, the report suggested “ultra-supercritical” or “high efficiency low emission” (HELE) power stations were not very effective at reducing pollution.
“The best improvement ultra-supercritical technology can offer over subcritical is about a 14 per cent reduction in pollution emissions,” the report said.
NSW Central Coast resident Gary Blaschke OAM said a lot of the downside of living close to coal-fired power stations had been swept under the carpet.
“If pollution was purple, people would be up in arms. Because we often can’t see it — whether it’s in the air on in the ground — many people don’t even think about it.”
THE INVISIBLE KILLER
The report Toxic and terminal: How the regulation of coal-fired power stations fails Australian communities mainly looks at four pollutants. They are coarse particles called PM10, fine particles known as PM2.5, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.
In particular PM2.5 has been linked directly to health risks including asthma, bronchitis, acute and chronic respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and painful breathing, and premature deaths.
It’s been estimated that PM2.5 exposure has led to 1590 premature deaths each year in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
These particles can travel long distances so Sydney residents may feel the impacts of pollution produced by Hunter Valley power stations, but local communities are the most at risk.
People who live within 50km of coal-fired power stations face a risk of premature death as much as three to four times that of people living further away.
It’s been estimated that 18 people living near the now-closed Hazelwood power station in Victoria died premature death due to air pollution in one year.
“The annual health costs of coal-fired power stations across Australia has been estimated at about $2.6 billion a year,” the report said.
“These costs are not factored into wholesale electricity prices or licence fees, and are therefore borne by the community rather than affecting the profits of the power station owners.”
I received the following email from a reader:
I am a follower of your blog. I saw that you picked up on the outrageous false claims made recently by Environmental Justice Australia.
You may be interested in the results of the Upper Hunter Valley Fine Particulate Matter Characterisation Study undertaken in 2012/2013 by the EPA and CSIRO.
The EPA found (much to their disappointment) the following things:
1. The dominant source of fine particulate pollution in Muswellbrook is household wood heaters. Other significant sources are sea salt and biomass smoke.
2. There is no detectable sulphate particulate pollution from the power stations
3. There is no detectable unique fingerprint for coal dust in the Upper Hunter Valley.
Indeed, the PM2.5 levels for the Upper Hunter are not too much different from those found in Antarctica (annual average of 4.3ug/m3) when adjusted for factors like wood smoke and biomass burning. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25167815)