Call to widen coal dust tests
PEOPLE living and working alongside the main coal rail lines should be given some of the same health testing available to all NSW coalminers, a Newcastle activist argues.
John Hayes, who helped found the Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group, said he had ‘‘no doubts whatsoever’’ that coal dust from coal trains was causing respiratory and other health problems for people along the lines.
As a member of the recently formed Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG), Mr Hayes said the 14 community groups who had banded together under the CTAG banner were determined to have the government and the coal industry tackle their concerns.
‘‘The community is becoming more aware that what used to be a nuisance on the side of the house that you had to hose off every month is a lot more pernicious than that,’’ Mr Hayes said.
‘‘It’s not that long ago that people were saying PM10 particles were too small to measure, and now we are looking at PM2.5 and even PM1, and evidence of their health impacts is clear.’’
From the 1940s, the Joint Coal Board which, as its name suggests, was jointly run by the state and federal governments, monitored mineworkers’ health.
The coal board was disbanded in 2001 and many of its functions transferred to Coal Services, a company owned equally by the NSW Minerals Council and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
Coal Services looks after the occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation of the state’s mineworkers, and has statutory responsibility for various conditions on mine sites, including airborne dust.
Coal Services spokesman Paul Healey said thousands of mineworker dust tests every year showed some NSW mines were still operating with dust levels above the statutory limits. But Coal Services had no jurisdiction on dust levels outside the mine gate.