Do particulates impair children's health?
For information on the effects of opencast mining on health follow the links below
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH RESEARCH STUDY
COMMITTEE ON THE MEDICAL EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTANTS: [http://www.doh.gov.uk/comeap/opencastatement.htm#execsum]
STATEMENT ON OPEN CAST COAL MINING OPERATIONS
For further information contact
Newcastle University Press Office, Mick Warwicker on 0191 2225893 or Melanie Reed on 0191 5791.
Additional information can be obtained from Andrew Cox, NEOAG on 0191 2615274
Confedreation of UK Coal Producers, Jerry Mousley 01924 200802 or Stuart Oliver 01525 381759.
PRESS RELEASE - 2 DECEMBER 1999
The North East Opencast Action Group (NEOAG) welcomes the publication today of the long-awaited report: "Do particulates from opencast coal mining impair children's respiratory health".
This important research project (funded by the DETR and the Department of Health) was initiated in April 1993 in response to concerns expressed by NEOAG in a letter to Professor Liam Donaldson, the then General Manager of the Northern Regional Health Authority. The subsequent three year research project was carried out by a multi-disciplinary team led by Dr Tanja Pless-Mulloli from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Newcastle's Medical School.
The project team have carried out a rigorous examination of the possible effects of airborne particulates from working opencast sites on the health of children in five communities in Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne & Wear, and Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
Eric Lee, Chairman of NEOAG, commented that: "In recent years many coalfield communities have had to endure the prospect of opencast mining in their neighbourhoods. This has often caused lengthy periods of stress and concern in these communities, particularly over whether particulate emissions from the mining activities will lead to health problems (such as asthma and other types of respiratory disease)."
"The results of the research project will help allay some of these fears - but the findings do indicate that children in the surveyed communities were exposed to higher level of emissions (the potentially harmful PM10 particulates) and that they visited their doctors more often with respiratory, skin and eye complaints."
The report recommends that there should be significant changes in mineral planning guidance. It proposes a framework for the assessment of new opencast coal schemes. This includes a recommendation that where proposed opencast mining is less than one kilometre from homes there should be an assessment of possible PM10 levels. The research team have proposed that the possible health effects of opencast mining should be evaluated if a proposed site could lead to particulate emissions causing a breach of the National Air Quality Standard. Under these circumstances local authorities could refuse planning permission for an opencast site. Mr Lee added that: "We hope that the Government will carefully examine this research report and make the necessary changes to the planning system as quickly as possible."
"However, this research project concentrated on the possible health impacts of opencast mining on children's respiratory health. It must be remembered that there are often many other vulnerable individuals who live in communities adjacent to active and proposed opencast sites - including men and women with chronic respiratory and cardio-vascular disease. In addition, there are some former mining communities near opencast sites which have a significant population of ex-mineworkers who often suffer from respiratory disease and consequently are at risk from higher levels of airborne particulates. Therefore, any assessments that are carried out into the impact of particulate emissions from proposed opencast sites must take the adverse effects on the health of these people into account."