Thursday, August 27, 2020

Coal-fired pollution killing 800 Australians a year: report

This study just took as proven the conclusions of several American studies of pollution effects. But I have repeatedly shown that the studies concerned were badly flawed -- either because of their failure to apply demograpic controls and/or   the minute effects found. So this study is a castle built on sand. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

They also rely on a recent MJA study of the Hazelwood fire but that study attempts to examine before-and-after effects without having any data on "before".  A good try but no cigar. I append below the abstract of that study together with some comments

Air pollution from Australia’s ageing coal-fired power stations kills around 800 people each year and spreads hundreds of kilometres from regional plants into major cities, new research finds.

This national death toll is twice as high as the number of smoke inhalation deaths in the recent catastrophic bushfire season, and eight times greater than the average annual casualties from all natural disasters, according to a new report from Greenpeace Australia.

This is the first time the national health impacts of burning coal for electricity have been scientifically assessed, its authors say.

Air pollution from coal-burning power stations also causes an average of 850 babies each year to be born with low birth weight, which puts them at greater risk of serious health conditions as adults, like cardiovascular disease, it finds. This represents 450 babies each year for Sydney, and 260 for Melbourne.

"Australians all over the country are paying for electricity with their lives and health, even if they don’t use power from burning coal or live near a power station," said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner, Jonathan Moylan.

There are 14,000 asthma attacks and symptoms among Australian children and young people aged between 5 and 19 that can be attributed to emissions from coal-burning power stations each year, the report finds.

Some of these symptoms come from cross-state pollution, with about 20 percent of cases occurring in states and territories that are not home to the power station that is the source of the emissions.

But a spokesperson for the Australian Energy Council, which represents major generators, rejected the report as "alarmist, misleading and lacking in rigour".

They pointed out it had not been peer-reviewed, saying it used outdated data from overseas and extrapolated it to Australia.

"This report appears to be part of a broader campaign that seeks to demonise fossil fuel plants regardless of their health, safety or environmental performance," they said. "All power plants have to meet health and environmental limits set and monitored by independent bodies."

The Greenpeace study modelled how much pollution from coal power stations could be expected in certain areas, based on observed meteorological conditions, reported pollutant emissions and electricity generation.

Existing health studies were then used to calculate how many additional deaths occur with this increased pollution. For mortality, this included deaths due to heart disease, cardiopulmonary disease, lung cancer, lower respiratory infections and stroke.

Report co-author Professor Hilary Bambrick, an environmental epidemiologist, said power plant air pollution had caused Australians to die and suffer from preventable diseases for decades: "Governments must come up with a plan to replace our ageing and unreliable coal burning power stations with clean energy solutions as quickly as possible."

New research recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia found unborn babies whose mothers were exposed to smoke from the Hazelwood coal mine fire are at greater risk of respiratory infections in early childhood, despite not directly inhaling the pollution.

Australia still operates 22 coal-burning power stations, some of which are among the oldest and most polluting in the world. Power stations in Australia are licensed to emit pollutant concentrations that dramatically exceed limits set by comparable countries, says Max Smith, a campaigner at Environmental Justice Australia.

He urged federal and state governments to address flaws in the regulatory system and fit Australia’s coal-fired power stations with basic pollution controls that could cut toxic pollutants by more than 85 percent.


Respiratory and atopic conditions in children two to four years after the 2014 Hazelwood coalmine fire

This is a very strange study.  It is about health effects of exposure to smoke pollution from one fire. But they had no baseline for a before and after study.  So they sought to get around that by correlating ESTIMATED monthly exposure to pollution with monthly reports of ill health. 

But one would assume that almost all the pollution from the fire would have occurred WITHIN the first month.  How could there be ANY effect up to four years later?  It's a mystery. I have read and re-read the article several times but can make no sense of it


Objective: To evaluate associations between exposure during early life to mine fire smoke and parent‐reported indicators of respiratory and atopic illness 2–4 years later.

Design, setting: The Hazelwood coalmine fire exposed a regional Australian community to markedly increased air pollution during February – March 2014. During June 2016 – October 2018 we conducted a prospective cohort study of children from the Latrobe Valley.

Participants: Seventy‐nine children exposed to smoke in utero, 81 exposed during early childhood (0–2 years of age), and 129 children conceived after the fire (ie, unexposed).

Exposure: Individualised mean daily and peak 24‐hour fire‐attributable fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure during the fire period, based on modelled air quality and time‐activity data.

Main outcome measures: Parent‐reported symptoms, medications use, and contacts with medical professionals, collected in monthly online diaries for 29 months, 2–4 years after the fire.

Results: In the in utero exposure analysis (2678 monthly diaries for 160 children exposed in utero or unexposed), each 10 μg/m3 increase in mean daily PM2.5 exposure was associated with increased reports of runny nose/cough (relative risk [RR], 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02–1.17), wheeze (RR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.18–2.07), seeking health professional advice (RR, 1.17; 95% CI 1.06–1.29), and doctor diagnoses of upper respiratory tract infections, cold or flu (RR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.14–1.60). Associations with peak 24‐hour PM2.5 exposure were similar. In the early childhood exposure analysis (3290 diaries for 210 children exposed during early childhood, or unexposed), each 100 μg/m3 increase in peak 24‐hour PM2.5 exposure was associated with increased use of asthma inhalers (RR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.01–1.58).

Conclusions: Exposure to mine fire smoke in utero was associated with increased reports by parents of respiratory infections and wheeze in their children 2–4 years later.

Med J Aust doi: 10.5694/mja2.50719
Published online: 24 August 2020

Australian COVID-19 vaccine produces ZERO side effects in human trials and provides protection against the virus in animals while reducing symptoms

A coronavirus vaccine being developed by Australian researchers has produced zero side effects in human trials so far and has shown promise with mammals.

The University of Queensland and Australian biotech giant CSL last month began injecting 120 Brisbane volunteers with a trial vaccine.

Hamsters in the Netherlands were also administered the drug.

Project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell said the European animal trials, conducted by Dutch diagnostic testing firm Viroclinics-DDL, had proven to be a success.

'The neutralising immune response created by our molecular clamp vaccine in animal models was better than the average level of antibodies found in patients who have recovered from COVID-19,' Dr Chappell said.

He said the hamsters given the vaccine and Seqirus MF59® adjuvant had reduced lung inflammation after exposure to the virus.

No side effects have been reported so far on the human trial element taking place in Brisbane, although more clinical results are needed from the volunteers in suburban Herston.

UQ's Brisbane project is one of just 17 human trials for a potential vaccine happening worldwide, including in the US, UK and China.

Globally, more than 130 coronavirus vaccines are being developed but UQ's work has demonstrated great success in the pre-clinical development stage.

The good news from clinical trials has been revealed a week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government signed an in-principal deal with UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to receive early supplies of a potentially successful vaccine being developed with Oxford University.

Should UQ successfully develop a vaccine in Australia, Dr Chappell said the biggest challenge would be in tasking CSL, formerly known as Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, with manufacturing sufficient quantities of the drug.

'One of the big challenges in the development of vaccines is the ability to produce them at sufficient scale for widespread use,' he said.

'We are working with CSL to ensure the production yield is as efficient as possible, and have every confidence they will be able to manufacture the millions of doses required to protect the Australian public.'

UQ is running clinical trials until mid-2021 - but, if successful, a potential vaccine could be rolled out at the start of next year for emergency use among the broader Australian population.

The Queensland vaccine has the advantage of being worked on in partnership with a manufacturer, CSL, meaning it could be mass produced quickly if successful.

The global Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness announced a partnership with CSL in June to fast-track clinical testing and potentially begin manufacturing should the trials prove successful.

CEPI gave UQ $15.16million to develop a molecular clamp vaccine platform that enables rapid vaccine design and production.

Another $10million came from the Queensland government, with the commonwealth chipping in another $5million in addition to the $10million that has come from philanthropic donors.


Chaos at Australian universities as hundreds of whinging staff vow to walk out across the country - despite thousands already losing their jobs and the sector brought to its knees

Hundreds of Australian university staffers are planning to walk off the job, throwing an academic year already disrupted by travel bans, lockdowns, and job cuts into further chaos.

A group of activist academics, known as the National Higher Education Action Network, voted to endorse a protest plan which will likely result in strike action.

The Monday meeting, attended by 460 members at its peak, voted with an overwhelming majority to endorse the plan 'with the goal of making democratically planned unprotected industrial action possible'.

The group also voted they would 'mount a vigorous campaign of coordinated actions' in response to funding cuts and to protect university jobs.

One such large scale public protest involving the National Tertiary Education Union, the National Union of Students, and 'secondary school student groups' is set to be held before the government's October budget.

The group claims Monday's unprecedented meeting and the call to plan towards strike action is in response to the governments 'refusal' to support universities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Unprotected industrial action is strikes or suspension of work by staff during the negotiations of an enterprise bargaining agreement.

Such action can result in large fines for both individuals and unions taking part in the strikes.

'Striking is recognised at a very basic right of working people and it is unacceptable that it is restricted as it in this country,' Dr Nick Riemer told the Guardian.

'It is very clear that we need to withdraw our labour in order to bring about the political reset that is needed'.

Australian universities have been decimated by coronavirus travel bans.

In 2018, international students provided 26 per cent of all higher education revenues across the country, according to leading industry agency the International Consultants for Education and Fairs.

The agency estimates the tertiary education sector could see up to $5billion in lost revenue in 2020 alone.

Public universities are also not eligible for JobKeeper payments leading to the possibility of large-scale layoffs.

Deakin University in Melbourne has announced 419 jobs will be slashed while UNSW staffers have agreed to across the board pay cuts in an effort to save jobs.

UNSW has already cut 500 jobs, with 300 gone at Monash and 500 feared to be on the line at UTS.

University of Sydney staff members have been reportedly sent an email asking for suggestions on how to cut up to 30 per cent of jobs in some faculties.

Sweeping changes to university fees by Education Minister Dan Tehan announced in June have added further upheaval.

The changes include increasing fees for arts, commerce and law subjects while reducing fees for teaching, science, maths, and engineering courses.

'People are so outraged at the job cuts, at the changes to universities, that they are ready to stop working. There is a lot of anger in universities at the moment,' Dr Reimer said.

Opposition education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek has previously said the government needs to act to ensure Australia's university sector remain healthy.

'For weeks now, Labor has been urging the federal government to act to help universities and save jobs,' she said.


Union boss accuses Labor of walking away from its working class roots

He's right about that.  They care more about global warming than jobs

The CFMEU will pull financial support and won’t campaign for Labor during the upcoming election, in what’s set to be a major blow to the Palaszczuk Government’s chances of re-election.

During an extraordinary press conference, union boss Michael Ravbar blasted Labor, claiming they’d been walking away from its working class roots.

Mr Ravbar, who rarely speaks publicly, conceded pulling support would hamper the party’s chances of re-election but said “so be it”.

“We’ve made it clear, there will be no finances, there’ll be no resources, there’ll be no people on the ground,” he said.

“At the end of the day, they rely on organisations such as us for our support, whatever it might be, financially or on the ground, so yes it will hurt.”

And while he doesn’t want the LNP to win, Mr Ravbar didn’t rule out campaigning for minority parties, including the Katter’s Australian Party, which the CFMMEU has donated money to in the past.

Mr Ravbar said the union - across local, state and federal - donated millions of dollars to the Labor Party.

He said Left members in the party were focused on getting themselves re-elected, and claimed it was “all about trying to promote and keep Jackie Trad alive”.

“To me she’s on life support, to me she’s a political liability,” he said.

He also took aim at the Government’s handling of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming there was a lot of “spin” and “bright ads” on tv.

“At the end of the day, we’re not convinced about her (Premier) plan, her vision and her leadership in regards for jobs, jobs security, stimulating the economy,” he said.

The union boss said he hoped MPs in the Left took notice, when asked whether the union would be pressuring Bancroft MP Chris Whiting to also quit.

He also claimed Labor was making the same mistakes which led to Federal Labor’s annihilation at the 2019 Election across regional Queensland.

“It’s not just about the CFMEU ... we’d love to see them get re-elected, but when you go off track and you’re not actually looking after the interests of all and when you’re a bit anti-coal, I would have thought that the Labor Government would have learnt from the last Federal Election last year,” he said.

“It seems to be that they’re actually making the same mistakes that they did.”

Slamming the Government’s handling of Cross River Rail and the New Acland coal mine, Mr Ravbar said he wanted to see prescribed clauses that would ensure local jobs.

He also wants requirements put in place to guarantee more apprenticeships, traineeships and indigenous employment.

“At the moment they’re just giving the projects out to the corporate sector,” he said.

He said he was also disappointed in union boss and factional heavyweight Gary Bullock, claiming, “He hasn’t been listening to some of our concerns.”

He also took aim at Labor’s State Secretary Julie-Ann Campbell, saying there was an “inward looking” within the Left.

He can’t see the union rejoining the Left in the short term.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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