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Wednesday, 30 May 1973
Page: 2838

Mr MORRIS (SHORTLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to recently published reports on air pollution and fallout in Australia and the possible effect on the health of Australians? Is he able to inform the House of those regions in Australia in which regular measurements are taken of solid particulate fallout and the concentration of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases in the atmosphere? Does the quantity of very fine or sub-micron solid particulates in suspension in the atmosphere in the presence of sulphur dioxide bear a relationship to the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in human beings?

Dr EVERINGHAM (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Health) - I am not aware of specific recent publications concerning the fallout of the 3 contaminants mentioned by the honourable member, that is, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. In regard to the effects of fine particulate matter on the human respiratory tract, this has not been proven but there is very strong circumstantial evidence that it does damage the human respiratory tract. Certainly, it does aggravate the irritant effects of sulphur dioxide in laboratory animals and it has been generally accepted by authorities on air pollution that the concentration of fine particles in air should be one of the factors monitored to assess the damage done to human communities and to measure fallout. I think the clean air authorities have used mainly sulphur dioxide and solid particle concentration as an index of air pollution and this is what is being monitored, mainly by State authorities. I could get further details on this, if that is what the honourable member would wish. The honourable member mentioned particularly, I think, sub-micron particles. I do not know to what particular size this refers. I know that particles of less than 5 microns, which is five-millionths of a metre, can penetrate the air sacs of the lung and presumably this means that they could contribute to pneumonia and fibrosis and do permanent damage to lung tissue and loss of lung tissue. The only really epidemiological evidence we have concerns the fact that in a series in London, adult males had a continual increase of the amount of sputum they produced when exposed to increasing concentrations of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter. There is an increased incidence of both upper and lower respiratory tract infections in infants exposed to these 2 contaminants.

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