Doctor calls unfiltered car exhaust fumes the ‘new asbestos’

Dr Ray Nassar is campaigning against exhaust fumes from tunnel stacks. Picture: AAP Image/Annika Enderborg
Dr Ray Nassar is campaigning against exhaust fumes from tunnel stacks. Picture: AAP Image/Annika Enderborg
The Daily Telegraph

MEDICAL activist Dr Ray Nassar is urging residents of the lower north shore to wake up to the dangers of air pollution.

The government is pushing ahead with plans to build a new network of road tunnels through the area connecting the northern beaches with the city. The Beaches Link and Western Harbour Tunnel would allow motorists to avoid the morning jam on Military Rd.

But there is growing concern in the community about the location of the smoke stacks, which are expected to be unfiltered.

“People need to wake up to the fact that this is the new asbestos and it’s coming out of a stack near you unless you get up and do something about it,” Dr Nassar said.

“The only solution is political.”

The preliminary plans for the new tunnel network. Picture: Supplied

Dr Nassar, who works as an anaesthetist at North Shore Private Hospital, became involved in the issue after he was directly affected by the NorthConnex tunnel.

He lived within 500m of a proposed stack and tried to find evidence to prove that it was going to be safe to stay in that area. The more he read into it the more scared he got and he ended up selling his home and moving away.

“There was no way I was going to be happy to bring up two children in that environment,” he said.

Dr Nassar explained that knowledge is gathering in the medical world about the health impacts of air pollution and that the pollutants have been shown to be carcinogenic alongside causing an increase in heart attacks and stroke.

He is particularly concerned about the concentrated exhaust fumes coming out of unfiltered stacks.

“There is no evidence to prove to us that it is safe to put unfiltered stacks in communities,” he said.

“It isn’t fair that they say they are cleaning up the air in one area and punishing another area for it. That’s not how public health works.”

Cross City Tunnel ventilation stack in Sydney CBD. Picture: Phil Rogers

He pointed out that children in particular are at risk as they breathe quicker and absorb a lot more pollution than adults.

Studies have shown air pollution impacts on children’s health and Dr Nassar said that having an unfiltered stack near Anzac Park Public School would be devastating.

“In children who are exposed to air pollution, studies have shown that their lung growth is irreversibly inhibited and impaired.”

Dr Nassar is urging the government to look at public transport as a priority and build a train line instead.

A State Government spokesman said there will be detailed analysis of any potential impacts of the project during construction and operation.

“Major transport infrastructure projects are subject to a rigorous and comprehensive environmental assessment process,” he said.

Proposed Northern Beaches tunnel


Schoolgirl Estelle Fraser is making a personal appeal to the NSW Government to change its mind on the plans for the tunnels. Estelle wrote a story for the Mosman Daily to express her concerns.

I AM Estelle and I am turning 10 years old. I am writing this story to tell you how I feel about what they are going to do to Sydney and what we should do about it.

I go to a brand new school called Anzac Park Public school. It was built to hold 1000 children and is already more than half full.

As many people know, they are going to build tunnels and set pollution all over our school and other schools near us. We have done nothing to deserve being poisoned by the pollution stacks. How can anyone think this is a good idea?

Estelle Fraser wants clean air for her school. Picture: Adam Yip

I know that pollution is invisible. You won’t know that it’s even there. You will have no idea that you’re even breathing it in. It affects you in different ways. It can affect you if you have asthma and if you have heart conditions, like me. It makes you sick and in some cases it causes death which is very sad and scary.

I think that they should put a train in the tunnel instead of cars because a train holds way more people than a car would, and most people travel in their cars alone.

Estelle speaking at the weekend Fix NSW Transport rally in Sydney. Picture: Matthew Vasilescu

Our population has grown and there is no train to the northern beaches which is a bit silly, especially if you don’t drive.

If they do build these tunnels and allow cars to go in it, they should definitely filter the pollution.

I think that the government has made the wrong decision to do this to us. We love, live in and look after this area and building these tunnels and poisoning our environment and our people is the opposite of what we want to do.

We should stand up for what is right. We have a right to breathe clean air and be happy and healthy.