Australia has more than 150,000 sites that are potentially contaminated with toxic waste, and experts say that only a tiny fraction of them are being cleaned up to remove the risk to human health.
Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation, Professor Ravi Naidu, told ABC’s The World Today that most of the sites are in urban areas and pose a serious threat to human and environmental health.
“Australia has 160,000 potentially contaminated sites and so far we have remediated less than 1 per cent of these contaminated sites,” Professor Naidu said.
“Globally we are looking at in excess of three million potentially contaminated sites. And already, we are spending in excess of $100 billion per annum assessing, managing and, or, cleaning up these sites.”
Professor Naidu says the contaminants are not being remediated at the required pace.
“As a consequence, it is already impacting many, many people from [a] health perspective, and we only recognise that when they die of cancer,” he said.
“Here we are looking at contaminants in the air. So inside the house, for example, [people] may be subjected to certain toxic organic substances.
“There are historically contaminated sites where we might have solvents, like chlorinated hydrocarbons or petroleum hydrocarbons.
“There’s metal contaminants – lead is an example. There are many sites where we have lead in the soil. And fine dust particles that people can inhale. And there’s also asbestos which is a major issue.”
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