Over 100 people from the Hunter region, including 30 doctors, have signed a joint letter to the Ministers for Health and Environment asking them to visit and take action to improve air quality in the region.
The letter also calls for action to make the coal mining industry pay for the damage caused by its air pollution.
Local Singleton GPs Tuan Au and Robert Vickers say the poor air quality is harming people’s health and they have been supported by 32 doctors from Newcastle, Gloucester and other parts of the Hunter.
Dr Tuan Au said, “Air pollution from the coal mines is harming people. We’re not sure people outside the region understand how bad the situation is and so we are asking the Ministers to come and meet with people here and talk about how to clear the air.”
Dr Bob Vickers said, “When there are spikes in PM10 there is a decline in health of local residents, particularly those with asthma, heart and lung disease.
“The number of spikes we have seen recently show that the government is not holding up its responsibility to maintain air pollution standards and our population is the one suffering.
“In one week of August we had 5 days straight of what the EPA consider poor air quality.”
Eight Hunter Valley air quality monitoring stations show repeated breaches this year of national pollution standards for daily average concentrations of coarse particle pollution, called PM10.
Coal mining is the largest source of PM10 pollution and with a new coal mine under construction and more proposed for approval, residents and doctors say more controls on mining are needed.
Doctors for the Environment spokesperson John van der Kallen said, “The Hunter doesn’t even have basic measures like keeping mines a minimum distance from residential areas. New action from NSW government to clear the air and make the mining industry pay for the cost of pollution has stalled, but mining continues to expand close to villages, towns and schools. It’s got to stop.”