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Coal dust is a serious health hazard – with worse to come

Every year 3,500 uncovered coal trains carrying nine million tonnes of coal, rumble through Brisbane on their way to the port near Wynnum, spewing coal dust throughout the suburbs.

The State Government plans to expand this amount of coal to up to 20 million tonnes a year with the expansion of the Acland coal mine, near Toowoomba and the many other mines planned in south-east Queensland.

The trains’ filthy cargo is unloaded at the Port of Brisbane, adding to huge stockpiles of coal that spread dust for kilometres.

Clean Air Queensland spokesman, Michael Kane says the serious health effects associated with coal dust pollution will also increase.

“Uncovered coal trains and stockpiles release significant amounts of particulate pollution into the air and there is no safe level of exposure to particulate pollution,” Mr Kane said.

Global studies indicate ingesting fine particles like those in coal dust could lead to increased health risks including stroke, heart attack, lung cancer and respiratory problems.

Drew Hutton, national president of the Lock the Gate Alliance said: “Coal dust pollution could be reduced by putting lids on wagons, by limiting the number of trains coming through Brisbane and by covering the stockpiles. I don’t think people’s health should be compromised so multinational mining companies can make a few more bucks.”

A Federal Government inquiry has recommended tighter regulations, better health assessments and that all coal trains be covered. The State Government, despite a pre-election commitment to the contrary, is allowing the expansion of Acland Stage 3 that will see another 2.7 million tonnes of coal transported through Brisbane annually.

Coal Dust Free Brisbane is holding a free community health forum at Morningside on Saturday.  Speakers will include Dr David King of Doctors for the Environment.

When: Saturday, May 24 May from 3pm to 4.30pm

What: Community health forum on coal dust pollution

Where: The Uniting Church, 43 Thynne Street, Morningside. 

Who:  Lock the Gate National President - Drew Hutton; Doctors for the Environment - Dr David King; Clean Air Queensland - Michael Kane

Quote from Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman: "...I think there's a time in the not too distant future where the community will be right to start to demand the wagons are closed.” ABC radio, November 20, 2012

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