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Speech: White Rock Quarry (Matter of Interest)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:42): I rise to raise some serious health concerns about the expansion of White Rock Quarry in Adelaide's eastern suburbs. In January this year, the state government commenced a detailed assessment of the submission by Hanson construction materials to expand White Rock Quarry in the Adelaide Hills, just 10 kilometres east of the Adelaide CBD. In response to this proposed expansion, local residents have formed the group Residents Against White Rock Quarry over their concerns—and their rightful concerns—about the environmental and health risks of this proposed expansion.

One of the primary concerns to these residents is what is called respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. That has the potential to blow over the residents in that local eastern area, including Horsnell Gully, Magill, Skye and Norton Summit. The Cancer Council has found that exposure to silica dust can lead to the development of lung cancer, silicosis—which is an irreversible scarring and stiffening of the lungs—kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, quite rightly, these suburban residents are very fearful that they will be vulnerable to these health risks.

As a result of current laws, private mines can actually mine right up to the boundary of private homes in suburban areas, spewing this dangerous and unhealthy dust into these people's very backyards and homes. Residents have a right to be concerned, indeed, while there is a nationally agreed workplace exposure limit on this dust. Those limits only apply in the workplace and they only apply for an eight-hour period of exposure each day, yet what protection is offered to individuals who are exposed to silica dust in the very homes they live in, where they spend far more than eight hours each day?

The average size of a particle of silica ranges from 0.1 to 100 microns. For comparison, the average size of a fine grain of sand is 125 microns and the average size of an asbestos particle ranges from 0.7 to 90 microns. Similar to asbestos particles, which I assume everyone in our community is now well aware of the dangers of, silica dust particles are invisible to the human eye. They cannot be tasted or felt. This means that you can be exposed to silica particles for an extended period of time without your knowledge.

The dangers associated with this exposure include bronchitis, emphysema, silicosis, lung cancer and, as I said before, obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as kidney damage. The Cancer Council has estimated that approximately 230 people develop lung cancer every single year as a result of long-term exposure to silica particles at work, where I say again that the allowed standard is for an eight-hour period only.

There is currently very little data available that focuses on the health impacts outside the workplace and indeed very little that focuses on exposure to particles from living near a quarry. What is happening here in our foothills to our east is that this quarry is going to expand right into the very backyards of this community and they are rightfully fearful that their health is being put at risk.

My colleague the Hon. David Shoebridge in New South Wales and I have long called for a ban on the dry cutting of materials that contain silica in the development of a plan to phase out those products. Many would be familiar with the kitchen benches that have become very fashionable, but indeed that fashion is quite lethal to those workers who handle this material.

We are totally aware of the error of our ways now with asbestos and we need to be exercising the same caution with silica dust. I stand and the Greens stand with the residents opposed to the expansion of White Rock Quarry. We in this council should be putting their health first, and I hope this parliament will do everything it can to ensure that the safety, security and health of those suburban residents are not impacted by the expansion of this quarry.

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