Schools, childcare need clean air zones
West Australian Newspaper
Emily Woods AAP 18 November 2021
Victoria should set up clean air zones around schools and childcare centres due to health risks caused by pollution in high traffic areas, a parliamentary report recommends.
The state’s Environment and Planning Committee on Thursday published a 312-page report following its inquiry into the health impacts of air pollution in Victoria.
The committee made 35 recommendations aimed at improving air pollution monitoring and mitigating its impact on the community.
A study published in the report revealed 10 per cent of Melbourne’s childcare centres are within 60 metres of a major road.
Data from one of the city’s most polluted intersections, where a childcare centre was to be built, found children who attend that centre are 60 per cent more likely to develop asthma.
The same intersection, Williamstown Rd and Francis St in Yarraville, is metres from a road where more than 5000 diesel trucks pass through each day, the committee heard.
“Placement of sensitive facilities such as schools and childcare centres in high traffic areas represents a risk to both the short and long-term health outcomes for children,” the committee found.
The state government should “develop and introduce clean air zones” around schools and childcare centres, it recommended.
The committee said the Planning and Environment Act should be amended to ensure traffic-related air pollution risks are included in planning decisions related to childcare and school locations.
It also found the state government and Environmental Protection Authority had not “consulted adequately” with communities impacted by air pollution.
Domestic wood heating was found to be a “significant” contributor to air pollution in built-up areas of Victoria, particularly in cooler months.
More air quality monitoring sites should be set up in Victoria, and an air pollution symbol added to the VicEmergency app to warn residents, the committee said.
The committee also recommended a statewide education campaign be created to better inform Victorians on the risks of air pollution.