30 November 2012

NSW Health today welcomed the release of an independent study of the Lane Cove tunnel which has found that tunnel emissions have had a minimal impact on the respiratory health of residents living near the exhaust stacks and surrounding areas. 

Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director Health Protection NSW said today’s announcement of the findings offered assurance to residents who expressed concerns about possible health impacts related to the opening of the Tunnel.

“NSW Health and various agencies commissioned this independent study into air pollution levels around the tunnel to broaden our understanding of potential respiratory health effects related to this tunnel and other transport infrastructure projects,” Dr McAnulty said.

“The study has examined the respiratory health of residents living near the tunnel and the impact of pollutants and has found that any risk to respiratory health is minimal.

“The community has been concerned about the respiratory health impact of car emissions and increased pollution near their home since the tunnel opened and we hope the study’s findings go some way toward allaying these concerns.”

The tunnel opened in 2007. The study - undertaken by the Woolcock Institute - monitored the respiratory health of 3000 people living near the tunnel prior to its opening, in 2006, then repeated in 2007 and 2008.

The aim of the study was to determine if diverting traffic through the tunnel has had any impact on the respiratory health of the community.

The study found little change in respiratory health in residents living near the tunnel although residents living around the eastern ventilation stack reported more respiratory symptoms after the tunnel opened and had slightly lower lung function in the first year of tunnel operation, 2007, but not in 2008. 

The Institute has not drawn any conclusions about the cause of these symptoms and as with all studies of this type, there are methodological limitations. The authors concluded that significant health gains could only be achieved through reducing vehicle emissions over large areas of the city.

“Air pollution has a number of sources. Emissions from cars and trucks, industry, wood burning heaters and bushfires can all have an impact on air quality,” said Dr McAnulty.

“Poor air quality can affect anyone but some people with respiratory problems can be more sensitive to air pollution. The findings of this research will be used to improve our understanding of air pollution, transport infrastructure and health effects in NSW.”

NSW Health’s independent Air Pollution Expert Advisory Committee has reviewed the findings and has advised that no changes to the operation or management of the tunnel are needed and no further health studies are required at this time.

For more information on the study, contact Alison McLaughlin at the Woolcock Institute on 02 9114 0420 / 0414 918 470.

For more information on health and air pollution visit www.health.nsw.gov.au.

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