Lung cancer alarm near coal-fired power stations
A new analysis of pollution data for the Port Augusta region contradicts reassurances from the South Australian Government that smoking can be blamed for high lung cancer rates.
Residents of the region have long complained about health problems they link with two power stations, Playford and Northern, which burn highly-polluting brown coal.
The lung cancer rates around Port Augusta are said by medical experts to be double the expected number.
The independent analysis has been presented in Adelaide at a briefing for state parliamentarians organised by Doctors for the Environment Australia.
Port Augusta mayor Joy Baluch lost her husband to lung cancer 16 years ago and he never smoked.
She dismissed the Government’s explanation of high lung cancer rates in the region.
“Of course I don’t believe the Government, why should I? After 40 years of constantly being told that the problems at Port Augusta are attributed to the high consumption of cigarettes. This is absolute rubbish,” she said.
“They are blatantly lying to the residents.”
Fight for data
Air pollution statistics for Port Augusta are collected by Alinta Energy, which owns the two power stations, in conjunction with the Environment Protection Authority.
Professor David Shearman, of Doctors For The Environment Australia, said it took a six-month battle to get the figures, so they could be independently examined.
“What it amounts to is the community feels they have not been listened to,” he said.
“When you look at how this community exists, it exists under the shadow of a power station that pours out pollution. They’ve had to stomach this for years because it supplies a large portion of the state’s energy and there’s been no alternative.”
Professor Shearman said smoking rates were about 7 per cent higher in the Port Augusta region than other areas.
“That’s really insufficient to account for a doubling of … lung cancer,” he said.
He said cleaner alternatives for power generation now needed to be considered for the area.
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