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Dad’s fears over CSG mining

NO CSG: Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell at the No Gas Rig Gig at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday.
NO CSG: Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell at the No Gas Rig Gig at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday. Jimmy Malecki

A RESIDENT of the Tara region in Queensland's Darling Downs, Brian Monk is convinced that coal seam gas is responsible for the debilitating impacts on his children and grandchildren's health.

For two years the family have been affected by head- aches, bleeding noses, numbness and tingling; one child has epilepsy, and a "general malaise" pervades a once-healthy family.

Mr Monk has since become a tireless anti-CSG campaigner, making many connections in the Northern Rivers. The Tara community was the beneficiary of more than $10,000 from last weekend's No Gas Rig Gig at Lismore Workers Club to fund independent medical testing.

Mr Monk feels betrayed by a Queensland Health Department study released last week and widely reported as disproving any link between CSG and the health problems plaguing 56 residents of the region.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg told Parliament the report "found no clear link between CSG activities and health complaints".

A GP commissioned by the Health Department exam-ined 15 people reporting symptoms and was "not able to identify any specific clinical condition ... that would point to an obvious relationship between the reported complaints and exposure to chemicals or emissions involved in the CSG industry".

The report instead speculated that amental phenomenon, "solastalgia" - "distress that is produced in people by environmental change in their home environment" - might be responsible for the health problems.

A spokesman for the Minister cited the relatively small number of cases and the lack of GP visits by those reporting symptoms, but said air monitoring and regular health clinics in the region would continue.

National Toxics Network senior adviser Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith has criticised the Queensland Health report for lacking sufficient scientific thoroughness.

Dr Lloyd-Smith said most of the research was based on industry testing handed over to Queensland Health and contained obvious gaps.

"The sampling was very limited in scope and time, ad hoc and inconsistent, yet still it found a wide range of serious air toxics (volatile organic compounds) around the Tara residents' homes," Dr Lloyd-Smith said.

For some 25 of the chemicals tested, the levels of detection used were much higher than health guidelines.

"Where it was clearly exceeded, as with benzene, it was simply dismissed, stating 'benzene is not associated with CSG so couldn't be related and must have come from other sources' with no further investigation," she said.

"That should have rung some alarm bells and it should have been investigated."

Dr Lloyd-Smith also noted the ambiguity of the report itself, which in fact stated there was: "some limited clinical evidence that might associate... some of the residents' symptoms to transient exposures to airborne contaminants arising from CSG activities".

"It's not the comprehensive health report the residents of Tara hoped they would get."

Topics:  coal seam gas, csg




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