To: The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Protect the health of people who live near quarries
Introduce a national minimum standard for all quarrying to be at least 1000 metres away from all residential settlements (10 or more homes), schools, hospitals and care facilities in the UK.
Why is this important?
Living near a quarry brings increased risk to the health of people in the nearby communities.
At the moment there are no standards laid down by government, relating to how far away quarries have to be from settlements, so each regional authority views the situation differently and each community has to argue their own case for a “buffer zone”.
Some authorities try to get away with no buffer, whereas others are more considerate.
We believe that there needs to be a standard buffer zone nationwide, of at least 1,000 metres, in order to protect the health of people who live near quarries, especially older people and children. A national standard is required so that all communities are treated fairly.
Dust generated by quarrying can contain silica. Silica is naturally found in certain types of stone, rock, sand and clay. Working with these materials can create a very fine dust that can be easily inhaled.
Once inside the lungs, the dust particles are attacked by the immune system. This causes silicosis, a disease that can take years to develop. It causes swelling and scarring in the lungs. The NHS website states that people with silicosis may become bed-bound and, in rare instances, may die. Silicosis can also lead to other serious lung diseases such as COPD and lung cancer.
Companies who operate quarries where silica is likely to be present are required by law to provide their employees with protective equipment. There is no such protection for people who live near quarries. Older people, those with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, and young children are particularly vulnerable to airborne silica entering their lungs. The risk of harm to health is higher where the prevailing winds carry dust from quarries towards residential settlements and schools.
We are therefore calling upon the Government to establish a common national standard that would keep quarrying activities at least 1000 metres away from areas where people live, work and study.
This standard would then have to be adopted by local authorities when preparing their minerals policies and plans (which include quarrying activities), and making planning decisions. This standard would reduce the risk of serious long term health problems caused by silicosis and other lung diseases.
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