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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

2 September 2001

LANDMARK STUDY TO ASSESS PERSONAL EXPOSURE TO TOXIC AIR


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today launched a nationwide study to collect data on the amounts of toxic air pollutants people are exposed to in their day-to-day lives.

Senator Hill said 50 volunteers from Adelaide would participate in the study by wearing a small gas monitoring device for a five days from 13 September and then for a second five-day stint in Summer to gauge air toxics in their daily activities.

An even number of men and women of varying ages from a range of backgrounds have been randomly selected from the electoral roll to participate in the study. Preliminary research has drawn in people of varying backgrounds ranging from a back hoe operator to a bus driver, pharmacist and a school principal.

Participants will answer a lifestyle questionnaire and keep a diary to assist researchers to interpret laboratory results from the monitoring tubes.

The chemical sampler is about the size of a fountain pen and passively absorbs chemicals. At the end of the study the tubes will be sent to a CSIRO laboratory for analysis.

About 150 volunteers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are also participating in the study.

Funding of more than half a million dollars has been allocated to the study through the Federal Government's multi-million dollar Living Cities - Air Toxics Program. The study is being coordinated by the Western Australia Department of Environmental Protection.

"This is the first major study of its kind in Australia to measure the actual exposure of a selection of individuals with different lifestyles to a range of important volatile organic compounds," Senator Hill said.

"Results of the project will be used to develop targeted management strategies to help reduce population exposure to toxic air pollutants."

The study will measure benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Preliminary work in the study has already revealed elevated levels of these pollutants coming
from woodheaters which have not been operated properly, drive through fast food outlets and underground car parks.

"When present in high concentrations, these chemicals can cause harmful health effects, ranging from headaches and dizziness to leukemia," Senator Hill said.

"While there have been many studies of these substances at industrial workplaces, we have little information on the extent to which people may be exposed to them in their everyday lives."

The Personal Exposure Monitoring project is a major collaborative effort involving environment agencies in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, NSW Health, Flinders, Monash and Murdoch Universities as well as the University of Western Australia and the CSIRO.

Outputs from this study will be used to develop national air quality standards.

2 September 2001

Contact:
Belinda Huppatz: (Senator Hill's Office) 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia