Once you recognise health is being harmed, the first thing you must do is stop making the situation worse.
This is the opinion of Fiona Armstrong, author of Coal and health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world, a report which was released last week by the Climate and Health Alliance.
Ms Armstrong was in Singleton on Thursday night to speak at a meeting attended by 40 interested people whom she described as having a deep level of concern regarding the harm to local communities’ health from coal mining.
“Some of the people at the meeting said they had been raising their concerns about the impacts from mining; in particular air pollution, on their health for more than two decades,” she said.
“They are frustrated with governments at all levels ignoring the issue.”
Ms Armstrong said her report, which involved 28 health organisations, clearly showed mining had health impacts.
“And given that information, surely governments should take action to ensure they do not make the situation worse by approving mine expansions and new mines in a region already at risk,” she said.
“It’s time governments accepted the medical evidence and faced up to their responsibilities to take make the situation better.”
People at the meeting had a desire to see something new, to have plans created and implemented to secure the economic future of the valley so it is no longer reliant on coal mining, she said.
“They want to see healthy industries attracted to the region,” she said.
Ms Armstrong said people also told her that new residents were reluctant to move to Singleton given its public perception as a town with pollution and health issues.
Coal and health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world was released 23 February 2015.