24 May 2019

World Health Organisation pollution standards for SO2 exceeded 336 times

Levels of sulphur-dioxide in several parts of NSW exceeded World Health Organisation standards 336 over the past four years, Nature Conservation Council analysis of NSW Government air-quality data has found.

“These figures are shocking, but what’s even more shocking is that the Australian standard for SO2 pollution is 11 times weaker than those recommended by the WHO, and weaker than levels set by the EU and China,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

High SO2 levels are associated with low birthweight in newborns, respiratory disease and premature death.

SO2 also helps form highly hazardous fine particles (PM2.5) that are associated with increase death rates and a range of diseases.

The primary source of SO2 is the burning of fossil fuels, especially emissions from coal-fired power stations.

Between May 2015 and May 2019, levels of SO2 detected at 17 air-quality monitoring stations in the Hunter, Central Coast and Sydney exceeded the WHO standard (average 7 parts per billion over 24 hours) 336 times.

Area

Monitoring stations

WHO SO2 exceedances

Sydney Central-East

Randwick, Rozelle, Lindfield, Chullora, Macquarie Park

1

Illawarra

Wollongong, Kembla, Albion Park South

5

Lower Hunter

Wallsend, Newcastle, Beresfield

9

Newcastle Port

Carrington, Stockton, Mayfield

180

Muswellbrook

Muswellbrook

120

Singleton

Singleton

19

Wyong

Wyong

2

Total

 

336

Source: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/search.htm

“It’s time our governments raised emissions standards to match the World Health Organisation’s and forced companies that operate coal-fired power stations to clean up their act,” Ms Smolski said.

“State and federal governments must protect people’s right to breathe healthy air, but at the moment that is simply not happening. Billion-dollar corporations like AGL, Origin and Energy Australia have been dumping millions of tonnes of pollution into the air we breathe.

“We call on the state government strengthened pollution standards to bring them in line with world’s best practice. We also call on the Berejiklian government to conduct a public inquiry into all the health impacts of the state’s coal-fired power stations and plan an orderly transition from coal to clean energy.”

Tags

Air pollutionCoal and gas

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