Health




HEALTH EFFECTS

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Clarence Point. Will residents who live near the mill be exposed to chemicals that can cause disease?

RPDC final scope: 'Gunns must provide an overview of the health status of the population in areas surrounding the mill site with a view to identifying any specific health characteristics which may make these people more sensitive to impacts from the mill than might otherwise have been expected .'

Comment: The Tamar valley has a high proportion of retired older residents whose health may be compromised more easily. There are also residents who have moved away from polluted areas to improve their health.

Gunns Ltd: ' The State Government have embraced World's best practice environmental, social and economic guidelines ensuring it is safe for the community and the environment .'

Comment: It is difficult to see how economic guidelines make it safe for the community and environment. Socially, wouldn't it be a tad more sensible to site it at Hampshire where virtually nobody lives rather than the Tamar valley with 100,000 residents. The Tasmanian Medical Association were worried enough to send in a submission to the RPDC.

On 26/6/06, the Australian Medical Association released a statement seeking assurances that the pulp mill would not exacerbate air-pollution problems in the Tamar valley. AMA lung specialist said that sulphurous odour emissions could be more than a nuisance for people living within a kilometre of the mill. 'Studies have shown that it may give rise to headaches, mood disturbances and coughs' he said. Dr. Markos did not anticipate particle pollution problems as a result of this mill but he said that proper monitoring must be done and he asked for assurances that the mill would not add to the existing adverse respiratory load. AMA president said that extra log trucks on roads were also a health issue leading to more road fatalities, air emissions and noise. The AMA statement said that it considered five days a year of slight odour detected no more than one kilometre from the mill boundary acceptable but no more.

Comment: According to RPDC guidelines, World's best practice is 10 smelly days a year and that the smell could may be detected up to 55kms away so the AMA guidelines have no chance of being fulfilled.

The NTDG study tour found no evidence of negative health effects round the mills they visited except for a slightly higher rate of Asthma around the Swedish mills. Negative health effects, if they occur, would be much more likely where there is an inversion layer. The report does not say whether any of these areas have an inversion layer to hold emissions in.

You can read about the likely health effects of particulates and gas emissions in the atmosphere section.

Pulp Mill workers health risks

RPDC project scope: 'Any occupational health and safety risks that are known to be specifically associated with the wood processing and pulp production industries should be identified and measures taken to address the risks described .'

IIS: admits that there have been health issues with northern hemisphere mills but says that these should not occur here. Some substances that are carcinogenic will be emitted such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Cadmium, Chromium, Nickel and it is recognised that there is no absolute safe level for these except zero. However, the IIS says the levels will be so low that the risk will be insignificant. Other substances known to cause health problems are SO2, NO2 (implicated in asthma - suffered by 9% of West Tamar residents) and, of course particulates. The only area where health guidelines will be exceeded is George Town and this is mainly due to other industries.
 The health risk assessments in the IIS are:
 **Acute systemic health - minor impact
 **Direct chronic heath - minor impact
 **Dioxin   - insignificant 
 **Odour - insignificant  
 **Secondary (bio-accumulation) - insignificant. 
The final conclusion in the IIS is that the mill is very unlikely to cause health effects.

Comment: The IIS admits there could be a minor impact on health effects. The air pollution will increase by 3% - so will asthma and other respiratory diseases increase by 3%? This is an excerpt taken from a report on the pulpmill being built in Uruguay by Finnish company Botnia: "Some claim that erection of the mill will also affect air quality as well. Botnia itself acknowledged that the paper millís emissions will cause a lingering stench, as well as possibly generating adverse effects, including eye and nasal irritation and wheezing."

Report on mill being built in Uraguay

In the Mercury on 17/12/2006, it says a report shows a connection between air pollution and respiratory illnesses in Launceston:

Mercury story on Launceston air pollution and health

The Gunns Ltd brochure does not mention health risks to workers at the mill. The following site quotes a survey of the health of pulp mill workers:

A Canadian study shows that workers at a pulp mill may face increasing risks of several different types of cancer and leukaemia and that those living nearby could also face this risk and that those who breath in the emissions may suffer aggravation of existing conditions or suffer new diseases. Gunns Ltd say that their emission controls will be so good that nobody will be affected at all.

VERDICT: The chances of the pulp mill having deleterious health effects on you or your family are pretty slim unless you have asthma or bronchitis, or a risk of heart attack or stroke and even then, if the emission controls are as good as Gunns Ltd say they will be, the risk is pretty low. But looking at the population as a whole, with the evidence on particulates and other pollutants, it could cause illness and premature death to some unlucky residents over the years, with the most likely to be affected being children, older people and those with existing health problems.

Gunns Ltd have a viable alternative site at Hampshire where there is no population.

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THE ISSUES:

World's best practice?<> Smell<> Air quality<> Log trucks and other HGVs<> Effluent<> Water<> Fogs and smogs<> Noise <> Visual aspect <> Health<> Logging<> Accidents<> Choice of site<> Financial<> Final verdict