Australia must have cleaner air

Contributed from Sew South Wales

As Australia burns under the wave of unprecedented bushfires across the nation, the cloud of smoke enveloping such big areas and Australia’s biggest city has been brutal reminder of the importance of clean air.

Photo from Dean Lewins/AAP: Sydney’s new norm is smoke filled air

Smoke from the bushfires is the part that we can see. There are a lot more toxins. About 3000 Australians die every year because of them. Many more suffer from a range of respiratory problems, and this is on the increase.

In a land subject to bushfires, and especially when they are becoming more frequent and bigger, there is the added problem that smoke and other pollutants combine to an even more toxic mix.

Australia is in a big country with a small population. It shouldn’t be the way it is, and it is, because of a long history of neglect. This hass got to change.

Without clean air health suffers. Sounds obvious. Why the hell then, is our air so polluted?

The problem is that there is far too little regulation over what gets put into our skies. Tougher laws must be put in place, and these must be enforced to be iof any use at all.

That Australians do care about the air we breathe was proved by the number of submissions sent to the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) review in August. There were more than 18,000 of them.

Much of the other pollution is caused by fossil fuel power plants, industry and cars on the roads. In addition to carbon, other major pollutants are nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

The EPC review will continue into the new year, and the final recommendations will be tabled in the parliament. The pressure on the government to act will continue. A range of environment, health and doctors’ organisations will continue their campaigning for better protection of the air we breathe.  

Cleaning the air means taking on the major polluters by imposing penalties that make it too costly to continue to pollute, having operations properly and regularly inspected, building clean power generation and setting clear targets to transition from fossil fuel burning vehicles on our roads, to alternative technologies.

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