Fluoride Action Network

Anglesea Alcoa toxin fears for new school

Source: Geelong Advertiser | July 10th, 2010 | By Yasmin Paton
Location: Australia
Industry type: Aluminum Industry

FLUORIDE emissions, that deformed the bones of kangaroos in Portland, will increase in Anglesea with a trial to start about 800m from the town’s new primary school.

The Alcoa power station will process a waste product called HiCal 40 carbon fuel to determine whether it can be used as an alternative to brown coal.

Alcoa and the Environment Protection Authority maintain the increase in airborne fluoride will be minimal and non-harmful to humans, animals and vegetation.

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

But Dr Mark Diesendorf, University of NSW environmental studies deputy director, is concerned about the trial.

“I would certainly be worried about building a primary school near there,” he said. “(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.”

Dr Diesendorf said EPA approval did not necessarily mean the trial would be safe.

“A lot of these standards are set in a way that allows polluters to continue operating,” he said.

“The health hazards of airborne fluoride produced by aluminium smelters, brick works and steel works, which settles on vegetation have been well known for 50 years.

“It’s just ridiculous that authorities like the EPA are aligning themselves with industrial polluters.”

Autopsies have revealed kangaroos that grazed near Alcoa’s Portland smelter, and populations near Austral Bricks in Craigieburn, developed fluorosis as a result of ingesting fluoride emissions.

The fluorosis caused bone growths in the paws, ankles, jaw and calves.

But EPA director Matt Vincent said fluoride emissions at Anglesea would be 10 times lower than those produced at Alcoa’s Portland and Point Henry sites.

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

“EPA is satisfied that Alcoa’s fluoride emissions for this trial sit well within the State Environment Protection Standards and do not pose an environmental risk.”

Wildlife Victoria CEO Sandy Fernee cared for the kangaroos affected by fluorosis 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 and the animals have to be euthanased.”

But Dr Ian Beveridge, a professor of parasitology at the University of Melbourne, said the effects were less severe.

“I think there is some degree of concern because a high proportion of them had changes in their teeth but they were very, very minor,” he said.