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

Bus Passengers Face Lower Benzene Exposure


September 23, 1996
(115/96)

The CSIRO has released a new report which assesses the levels of benzene exposure faced by peak hour commuters.

Exposure to benzene has been linked to the development of myeloid leukemia. The CSIRO report is part of an on-going effort to quantify the risk of exposure to benzene.

Australia has relatively low and declining levels of benzene in the air.

The report shows that the concentration of benzene inside a poorly maintained car in the morning rush-hour is 27 times the ambient air concentration (ie, the air outside the car).

In well maintained cars, the concentration is 11 times the ambient air concentration.

In contrast, benzene concentrations measured inside a bus during peak-hour traffic are about a quarter of those in older vehicles.

Benzene is a carcinogen and as such there is no completely safe level of exposure.

However exposure to benzene at the levels measured by the CSIRO report has not been associated with adverse health effects.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the results will be referred to an independent inquiry into the state of air pollution in Australia which will soon be established by the Government.

It may also be appropriate for the report to be considered by the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Emissions and Noise which recommends standards for new vehicles. The report will also be referred to other environment and health forums between the States and the Federal Government.

The report entitled Exposure to Emissions of Benzene, 1,3 Butadiene and Carbon Monoxide in the Cabins of Moving Motor Vehicles was prepared by the CSIRO Division of Coal and Energy Technology for the Federal Department of the Environment and the Road Traffic Authority of NSW (RTA).

For further information contact:
Minister Matt Brown (06) 277 7640
EPA Jim Cannon (06) 274 1076
NSW RTA Ken Boyes (02) 9218 6934
CSIRO Dr Peter Nelson (02) 9887 8660

Commonwealth of Australia