New Zealand quarry companies face strict enforcement of monitoring over dust levels, despite a study finding no serious risk to public health from airborne dust, according to a research by Environment Canterbury Regional Council.
Environmentalists in Canterbury set up a monitoring programme in Yaldhurst – one of the country’s quarrying hotspots – to test for toxic silica dust, following concerns from residents about the health effects of dust.
After months of testing, the research showed that results were well below the international guidelines for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust, and that there were no risks to people’s health.
As reported on the website Stuff, authorities have confirmed that dust from quarrying is a nuisance and have promised to tougher enforcement and to clamp down on quarry operators who flout rules.
Relief and dismay
The findings will come as a mixture of relief and dismay for residents who have long campaigned over the impact of quarry dust on their lives. Many residents have evidence from their doctors linking issues such as nosebleeds and respiratory problems due to dust.
Wayne Scott, chief executive of quarrying health and safety body MinEx, said quarries in Canterbury were developing a voluntary code of practice to reassure residents.
“While many quarries have good dust management in place, all operators need to continue to lift their game because any dust that emerges from a quarry is annoying to close neighbours,” he said.
New Zealand Aggregate and Quarry Association chairman, Brian Roche, welcomed the monitoring results, saying the organisation’s members “work hard to meet dust limits”.
New Zealand findings not conclusive
In South Africa, a court ruling proved that dust is a health risk. In a first of its kind, a Silicosis litigation settlement was reached in May this year. This followed three years of negotiations between companies and attorneys for miners who had contracted the disease from mining.
Following the historic settlement, mining companies are going to fork out about R5-billion (about US$450 million) to mineworkers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.