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You’ve Created a World Unfit for Living

Posted by feww on February 28, 2014


Victoria Government Should Evacuate Morwell 

Officials have upgraded health warning for Hazelwood coal mine fire after nearly a month of burning, instead of evacuating the town.

Heath authorities have recommended the elderly, pregnant women, those with respiratory problems and children to leave the town.

Particulate matter, which can cause heart attacks and lung cancer, is currently 11 times Australia’s daily threshold near South Morwell [Population: 14,000], about 150 km east of Melbourne [Population: 4.25million,] Australia’s 2nd largest city.

apocalyptic fumes and ash blanket morwell
“Morwell on Fire.” Apocalyptic fumes blanket the town of Morwell in Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia.  Screenshot from a news clip by

“We are now into the third week and we know that continued exposure to the smoke increases the risk of bad health outcomes,” said Dr Rosemary Lester, Victoria State’s chief health officer.

“We are not currently seeing serious health effects from the smoke, such as an increase in ambulance callouts or hospital attendances,” she said.

“Health impacts may change if vulnerable people continue to be exposed to smoke.”

At this stage officials say it is not an evacuation and they are making the recommendation as a precaution.

Locals joining reporters at a media conference on Friday were sceptical of Dr Lester’s confidence that the health of the broader community is unlikely to suffer as the crisis drags on.

“I’m 25-years-old, yesterday I spent five minutes in the smoke outside, I could not see for one hour,” one Morwell resident said.

Dr Lester replied: “Because we know now that the exposure is likely to continue we think that now is the right time to increase the advice to temporary relocation.” []

However, a study published in the British Medical Journal in January, found even small increase in the PM2.5 particulate matter can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and lung cancer.

The concentration of PM2.5 in the air reached 280 micrograms per cubic meter in Morwell South on Thursday, or 11 times Australia’s daily threshold, said a report.

The study’s lead researcher, Guilia Cesaroni from the Department of Epidemiology at Rome’s regional health service, studied more than 100,000 people in five European cities over a decade.

“We found an association between increased levels of PM2.5 and mortality and also with incidence of lung cancer,” she said.

Dr Cesaroni found an increase in annual exposure to PM2.5 of just 5 micrograms per cubic metre means a 13 per cent increased risk of heart attack.

She calls the Morwell reading of 280 micrograms per cubic metre “a huge level”.

Dr Cesaroni says it would lead to more hospital admissions and, if the area is largely populated, “an excess in mortality” if the readings continue for a month or more.

“For sure there will be an increase in the annual average, but at the moment I would be more worried about the immediate effect,” she said.

The fires at the Hazelwood and Yallourn coal mines were ignited on February 9, and have been burning since.

Forecasters say the fire could burn for at least another 10 days due to the windy, dry weather.

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