The burden of air pollution rests disproportionately on the shoulders of poorer Australians.
A new report by the Australian Conservation Foundation shows 90 per cent of polluting facilities reported in the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) are in postcodes with low-middle weekly household incomes.
Only 0.1 per cent of polluting facilities are in high household income areas.
Of the five most polluted areas – Newman and Collie in WA, Mount Isa in Queensland, the Hunter region in NSW and the Latrobe Valley in Victoria – coal-fired power stations are the largest emitters in three, while mining operations create the most emissions in the other two.
“Air pollution kills around 3,000 Australians every year and worsens conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases,” said Matthew Rose, the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Economics Program Manager.
“Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the direct health impacts of air pollution. These are the same groups that are most affected by heatwaves, which are getting worse because of climate change.
“Air pollution is a climate issue and a class issue in Australia. Poorer Australians who live around mines or refineries or in the shadows of coal-fired power stations are unfairly bearing the burden of pollution that is a by-product of the goods and services all Australians use.
“Australia’s air pollution standards are fragmented and – where they exist at all – are in many cases weaker than the standards recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“Dealing with air pollution has been in the too hard basket for too long.
“Australia needs new, nationally consistent air quality standards and an independent body to regulate and enforce the rules.”
ACF’s report examined emissions data from the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) and weekly household income data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS).