Making News
Climate Council: turn off the gas and save our children
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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The Climate Council has condemned the Federal Government’s gas expansion plans after a new report found gas cooking presented an asthma risk to children comparable to cigarette smoke. The report, Kicking the Gas Habit: How Gas is Harming our Health, was written by council member Kate Charlesworth, who said gas use in homes was exposing children to a higher risk of asthma as well as driving climate change. “Cooking with gas is estimated to be responsible for up to 12 per cent of the childhood asthma burden in Australia,” Dr Charlesworth said. “A child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke. The Federal Government must abandon its dangerous, polluting and expensive plans to expand gas operations and instead spend public money on scaling up clean, safe and affordable renewable energy.”

Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said Australia had some of the world’s highest rates of asthma, which was the leading cause of disease burden among school-age children. “We should be doing everything possible to improve health outcomes for our children,” Ms Goldman said. “Some people will be shocked to learn that cooking dinner on a gas stove could be contributing to their child’s asthma symptoms. We need education to improve awareness of indoor air pollution. People can take steps to reduce their risk by increasing ventilation, such as modern extraction fans over gas stoves, flues for gas heaters, and simple measures like opening windows. However, this won’t eliminate the risk completely.”

The report found that:
• Far from the “clean and natural” image that the gas industry promoted, gas cooktops produce contaminants that increase the risk of childhood asthma – in particular, nitrogen dioxide and certain forms of particulate matter, such as PM2.5;
• Other types of indoor gas use, such as unflued gas heaters in school classrooms and homes, also harm children’s health;
• Children and poorer households are at the highest risk from – and are most likely to be harmed by – gas production and use;
• Gas extraction and processing involves many hazardous substances, including those that cause cancer, interfere with childhood development, trigger asthma and contaminate the local environment through airborne pollution and wastewater;
• Research conducted in Queensland’s Darling Downs found that people living near coal seam gas developments were more likely to be admitted to hospital for tumours as well as blood and immune diseases; and,
• Clean energy alternatives such as solar and wind were the key to a prosperous, healthy future for all Australians.

“Just as doctors spoke up on the dangers of asbestos and tobacco in the past, we have a responsibility now to sound the alarm on the dangers of gas,” Dr Charlesworth said. “Gas is both directly hazardous to our health and also, as a fossil fuel, drives climate change, which worsens health risks related to extreme weather such as heatwaves, bushfires and intense storms. Governments can take simple, practical steps to protect Australians’ health, such as ending mandatory gas connections for new residential developments – as in the ACT – and offering incentives to people to replace gas appliances with electrical alternatives. Australians who switch from gas to efficient electric appliances will save money, protect their family and improve the health and well-being of our communities.”

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