Lock The Gate Alliance has called on the Federal Health Minister to urgently strengthen standards on air pollution from coal mining, after new European studies which show airborne dust particles are linked to increases in lung cancer and heart failure.
The first study found that airborne dust particles contribute to lung cancer incidence and the second study found that air pollution is closely associated with hospitalization and death from heart failure.
"The mining, transport and combustion of coal is known to be a major contributor to air pollution in areas such as the Hunter Valley of NSW, Central Queensland and the La Trobe Valley in Victoria" said Carmel Flint, campaign co-ordinator with Lock The Gate Alliance.
"The new studies from Europe released this week show that dust particles in air pollution contribute to lung cancer and heart disease and that there is no safe level for these pollutants.
"This confirms the worst fears of families living near coal mines and transport routes that the health of their children is at risk.
"The Federal Government is due to release a National Plan for Clean Air next year, but it will be pointless if it doesn't fix our failing air pollution standards, which are well below World Health Organisation standards, and step up Federal legal powers.
"In the Hunter Valley, dust monitors show that even our current weak national standards on air pollution are regularly exceeded but the Federal Government has no powers to enforce compliance.
"We're calling on the Federal Health Minister to strengthen the national standards on air pollution, to introduce policing powers for the Federal Government and to require Health Impact Assessments prior to coal mining.
"There should also be exclusion buffers placed around towns and residential dwellings to protect against coal mine encroachment, mandatory covering of coal trains and strict standards for monitoring of air pollution in coal-affected areas.
"It's time for the Federal Government to step in and protect the health of families and children at risk from dangerous coal mining" she said.