Fluoride Action Network

Alcoa testing raises toxic fears for kids

Source: Geelong Advertiser | July 15th, 2010 | By Yasmin Paton
Location: Australia
Industry type: Aluminum Industry

AN environment expert has warned an Anglesea power station trial may harm students at the nearby primary school, but authorities say the community will be safe.

Fluoride emissions, similar to those that deformed kangaroo bones in Portland, will increase when Alcoa starts processing a waste product called HiCal 40 carbon fuel in coming weeks.

Alcoa and the Environment Protection Authority maintain the increase in airborne fluoride will not harm humans or animals.

“The alternative-fuel trial is safe and will see emissions for all substances remain well within the EPA guidelines,” said Anglesea power station manager Stephanie Pearce.

But Dr Mark Diesendorf, University of NSW environment deputy director, is concerned about the town’s primary school, which is being built about 800m away.

“(Children) will be more sensitive than adults because, with any toxin, you’re interested in the amount of toxin that enters the body in relation to body weight,” he said.

“A lot of these standards are set in a way that allows polluters to continue operating. It’s just ridiculous that authorities like the EPA are aligning themselves with industrial polluters.”

Autopsies have revealed kangaroos grazing near Alcoa’s Portland smelter, and populations near Austral Bricks in Craigieburn, developed fluorosis, causing bone growths on their joints.

Wildlife Victoria CEO Sandy Fernee cared for the kangaroos at Craigieburn.

“They’re in a serious amount of pain because of it and their mobility is completely taken away,” she said. “Immobilisation then leads to starvation … the animals have to be euthanased.”

Melbourne University professor Ian Beveridge, who was involved in autopsies on Portland kangaroos, said the effects were less severe.

“A high proportion of them had changes in their teeth but they were very, very minor,” Dr Beveridge said. “There was a proportion of change in their bone, similar to arthritis.”

EPA director Matt Vincent said emissions at Anglesea would be 10 times lower than Portland.

“EPA assessed Alcoa’s application and took into consideration recent research into the impacts of fluoride on kangaroos at other locations in Victoria,” he said.

Anglesea resident Garry Butler called for more information.

“The statement that it’s 10 times weaker (than Portland) that’s got to be proven,” he said.

“We need to know is 10 times weaker still too much? I think we should ask for more information and more testing before anything occurs.”

Fellow resident Helen Tutt felt comfortable with the trial.

“I’m very reassured that Alcoa have done their homework,” she said.