Half state's dust comes from Hunter centres

Almost half of the state’s fine particulate matter dust emissions are produced in Singleton and Muswellbrook, National Pollutant Inventory data shows.

The data has been revealed on the eve of the first meeting of the Upper Hunter air quality monitoring network advisory committee tomorrow.

The pollution inventory reveals 53million kilograms of the state’s 110million kilograms of PM10 emissions for 2008-2009 were produced in Muswellbrook and Singleton.

Similarly, 3.2million kilograms of the state’s 6.7million kilograms of PM2.5 emissions for the same period came from the two towns.

Although the chemical composition of the dust varied, particles of that size made up a large proportion of dust able to be drawn deep into the lungs.

Among community concerns is the potential link between mercury emissions from power stations and the incidence of autism.

The Newcastle Herald reported on Friday that researchers from the Swinburne Autism Bio-Research Initiative in Melbourne were seeking access to Centrelink data for an Upper Hunter research project on the subject.

‘‘There are lots of theories about this [mercury and autism] and it’s something we think should be examined,’’ Singleton Healthy Environment Group member Carol Russell said.

‘‘Mercury should be being monitored, irrespective of whether it is connected to autism.’’

Associate Professor Nick Higginbotham, from the University of Newcastle’s centre for clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, said the NPI data painted a picture of environmental injustice.

‘‘‘It’s only because that the good citizens of Singleton and Muswellbrook are being proactive that this issue is being looked at,’’ he said.

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