News | 30th Oct, 2012

Report finds more deaths, disease in coal towns

Tueday, 30 October 2012
Jeannette McMahon, ABC

New research which shows higher rates of death, disease and birth defects in coal-mining communities overseas has prompted calls for a study on health impacts in the Hunter Valley.

The study of international evidence showed increased rates of cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease, as well as birth defects, in communities near coal mines and coal-fired power stations.

The researchers analysed 50 studies from 10 countries, including the US, the UK and China.

Lead author, Associate Professor Ruth Colagiuri from the University of Sydney, told 1233 ABC Newcastle's Jill Emberson the results are cause for concern. 

"Excess deaths, respiratory problems, heart problems, bladder and kidney cancer in some cases, a number of different cancers, skin cancer," she says.

"I think it is of concern, I wouldn't be sending my grandchildren to live in the Hunter Valley right now.

"There are differences in mining practices in some countries that might lead to some effects that we've found."

But the professor says many of the countries examined, such as the US, UK and Canada, have similar coal-mining methods to our own.

Professor Colagiuri says very little research has been done on health impacts of coal mining in Australia, with one report on the Port Stephens area around 20 years old.

"We need to really find out, we need local studies that can tell us whether we need to be concerned about it and that can help weigh up the balance of benefits and harms of coal mining," she says.

"We simply don't have the findings about Australia.

"I think we should be doing it for something of this importance, and for something that raises so many community concerns."

The study was commissioned by the Beyond Zero Emissions group, but Professor Colagiuri is adamant her research was not influenced by their agenda.

"Absolutely not, they've had nothing to do with it, not even designing research questions," she says.

"They did fund it, they commissioned the report but it's completely independent, they had nothing to do with the process or methods or findings.""


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