Page 1032 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 17 March 2010

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cases the incorrect burning, of wood creates great health problems for people, particularly for people suffering heart and lung problems. For people living in Tuggeranong, this reality is much harsher as smoke is trapped by temperature inversions and lingers close to the ground overnight.

When wood smoke is breathed into the lungs, it irritates the bronchial tubes. It can affect everyone, especially those with pre-existing lung disease such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The harmful effects of wood smoke appear similar to those of environmental tobacco smoke. While individuals can choose not to smoke and can usually avoid tobacco smoke, a resident of a valley filled with wood smoke cannot easily avoid breathing in polluted air.

According to the Asthma Foundation, particles are small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of our lungs, and once they are in there, they stay there. The particles are so small that they infiltrate the smallest recesses of people’s lungs where they cause inflammation that leads to heart and lung diseases. According to the World Health Organisation, “there is no safe level of fine particle pollution”.

I note that wood smoke pollution is also created by industrial wood-fired boilers, burn-offs and unplanned forest fires. Diesel fumes also give rise to particle pollution. In the future, these sources will become more important to tackle as home usage of wood heating declines and particle levels remain unacceptably high in our cities.

Professor John Todd of the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand released statistics showing that more than 53 per cent of air pollution in the Tuggeranong Valley is generated by domestic wood burning for heating. Recognising the depth of the problem, the Tuggeranong Community Council passed a motion at its general meeting in May 2009 noting:

… average monthly air pollution readings taken at Monash between 2004 and 2008 show that the level of fine particle air pollution more than doubled in the Tuggeranong Valley every winter, and exceeds acceptable national levels.

At stalls I ran last year, I provided questionnaires that people could fill out. While the responses were varied, it was evident that people in the valley experienced respiratory problems specifically during the winter months. What I found particularly interesting from the questionnaires was the number of people who were not aware of the ACT wood heater replacement program or the “don’t burn tonight” campaign.

This has been made even clearer to me when we placed questions on notice in September last year relating to the number of applications submitted through the ACT wood heater replacement program and the number of applications approved. The contrast in figures is noticeable. For instance, the number of applications for the program in 2004-05 was 495 in comparison to 2009 when 129 applications were submitted. Similar gaps can be found with the number of applications approved by the department. In 2004-05, 424 were approved compared to 87 in 2009.

Going back over these records, it seems we have moved backwards. Without investment in or the active promotion of education campaigns, resources to police

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