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Help Create Gas-Free Healthy Homes in NSW

Healthy Futures and NSW Doctors for the Environment (DEA) are working together to create healthier homes and a healthier climate, free from polluting fossil fuels. Burning gas is driving climate change and putting Australians' health at risk. In NSW, we are calling on the government to end new gas connections and support households to transition to healthier energy solutions. 

The problem

Gas is a significant source of energy for 7 out of 10 Australian homes, in NSW most often used for cooking and heating water. This is either through a reticulated network connection that provides misleadingly called natural gas or bottled gas. Around 5 million Australian households are connected to gas distribution networks. 

Beyond the significant climate risk that burning gas contributes to, families in NSW face unacceptable physical health risks from having gas in their homes. Gas cooktops and heaters produce indoor air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and benzene that can increase the risk of asthma, exacerbate chronic illnesses and even cause death. A child living with gas cooking in their home faces a similar risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke. Indoor gas has been estimated to be responsible for up to 12% of childhood asthma in Australia.

The solution

The good news is there are alternatives available right now that are cheaper, healthier and better for our climate. By transitioning to renewable-powered, energy-efficient appliances, households can reduce power bills, carbon emissions and toxic air pollution.

While many homeowners can implement these changes, the NSW Government must protect all households and create mechanisms to support low-income earners. 

What are we doing?

Just as health workers led campaigns against tobacco, they can also help transition to gas-free homes.

Doctors, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals are best placed to advocate for people’s physical and mental well-being. By having informed and active health workers who use compelling images and stories and are motivated to take part in public actions, we can erode the social licence of gas and reframe it as the health and climate threat it is.

We're calling on the NSW Government to ban new gas connections in homes and to provide assistance to low-income households to transition to electric alternatives.

Some of our campaign activities will include:

  • Educating, empowering and organising health workers to become spokespeople for gas-free homes
  • Researching the health impacts of gas in homes and advocating for renewable energy solutions
  • Collaborating with health, environmental and social organisations to build a coalition that advocates for Healthy Homes and a Healthy Climate
  • Lobbying the Government to bans new gas connections as soon as possible
  • Advocating for equity so that low-income earners do not bear the brunt of expensive and dangerous gas appliances and are supported to transition to healthier alternatives

What can you do?

  1. If you are based in NSW & work or study in health or community services, please sign our open letter here to the NSW Energy & Climate Change Minister
  2. If you're not in health, you can still help us build awareness and share our work with colleagues and friends in NSW
  3. If you are in Victoria please send an email to the Health Minister here asking for hospitals go all-electric and get off gas 

Please get in touch if you'd like to be involved.

 

Key organisational signatories:

 

     

 

     

    

  

 

      

    

      

     

   

  

  

     

       

 

    


200 Signatures

137 Signatures

Will you sign?

To: the Hon. Penny Sharpe MP, NSW Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Environment 

 

Cc: the Hon. Chris Minns, MP, Premier of NSW 

the Hon. Ryan Park, MP, NSW Minister for Health

the Hon. Paul Scully, MP, NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces

the Hon. Rose Jackson, MP, NSW Minister for Housing, Homelessness, Minister for Mental Health 

 

Dear Minister Sharpe,

The burning of gas in homes is harming people in NSW and is contributing to catastrophic climate change. As health and community service workers, students and organisations, we urgently request that your government replace household gas with renewable-powered electricity.

Domestic gas use poses a range of direct and indirect risks to health, which many of us are witnessing in the communities we serve:

  • Indoor pollution from gas appliances causes and exacerbates asthma and other illnesses and can even cause death (1).
  • Pollution from gas stoves has been estimated to account for 12% of the childhood asthma burden in Australia (2).
  • A child living in a house with a gas stove faces roughly a 30% increased risk of asthma (3). This is comparable to a child living with household cigarette smoke (4,5).
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances is a well-recognised and preventable cause of hospital attendance and deaths (6,7), including a near-fatal incident involving three residents of Western Sydney in September 2022 (8).
  • Gas flames release benzene, which can cause cancers and therefore should be kept at the lowest level possible indoors (9).
  • The burning of gas is driving dangerous climate change. Climate change is a health emergency that has become all too apparent to NSW residents in recent years due to devastating bushfires, floods and heatwaves, all of which can have significant and potentially life-threatening health impacts (10)

There is no feasible pathway to a carbon-neutral gas network (11), so to reach NSW’s net zero targets, the gas network will have to be shut down by 2050 at the latest. Healthier and more economical electric alternatives for all current domestic uses of gas exist, with a plausible pathway to net zero carbon emissions for the electricity grid. The NSW Government should prioritise the health, climate and economic benefits of an accelerated decommissioning of the reticulated gas distribution network. By way of precedent, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and multiple international jurisdictions are already phasing out gas connections to new homes (12)

At the household level, the energy bill savings from upgrading to heat pump-based heating and induction stoves surpass the initial upgrade costs within a few years (13). This initial cost, however, can be a barrier to low-income households, so to assure energy equity, targeted assistance is important (14). People residing in either public or private rental housing are generally unable to choose whether or not to use indoor gas and therefore need assistance to avoid being left behind with high bills and health impacts as others transition away from gas. Furthermore, households who continue using gas during the transition can decrease exposure to toxins by optimising ventilation, which should be a focus of community education campaigns. 

We, therefore, request that the NSW Government publicly commit to the following:

  • No new gas connections to NSW homes by 2025
  • Means-tested financial assistance for NSW residents to replace gas appliances with electric alternatives, taking advantage of the 2023 Federal budget Household Energy Upgrades Fund (e.g. direct subsidies, rebates and/or no-interest loans). 
  • Abolition of gas disconnection fees by the end of 2025. 
  • A requirement for landlords to undertake safety checks on all gas appliances every 2 years and replace gas appliances that fail after 2025 with energy-efficient electric alternatives.
  • Ending the sale of gas appliances in NSW by the end of 2030.
  • Undertaking public health education on minimising exposure to toxic air pollution in homes still using gas.
  • A commitment to replacing gas with electricity in all public and government buildings, including all public housing and public hospitals.
  • In the interim until all public housing is electrified, establishing a pathway for people living with asthma or other lung conditions in public housing to have gas appliances replaced with electrical alternatives as a priority at the recommendation of their GP, paediatrician or respiratory specialist.

 

We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this further.

 

Sincerely,

[signatories]

References:

  1. Ewald, B, Crisp, G & Carey, M 2022, ‘Health risks from indoor gas appliances’, Australian Journal of General Practice, vol. 51, no. 12 https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2022/december/health-risks-from-indoor-gas-appliances
  2. Knibbs, LD, Woldeyohannes, S, Marks, GB & Cowie, CT 2018, ‘Damp housing, gas stoves, and the burden of childhood asthma in Australia’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 208, no. 7, pp299-302, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2018/208/7/damp-housing-gas-stoves-and-burden-childhood-asthma-australia
  3. Lin, W, Brunekreef, B & Gehring, U 2013, ‘Meta-analysis of the effects of indoor nitrogen dioxide and gas cooking on asthma and wheeze in children’, International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 42, no. 6, pp1724–1737, https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/42/6/1724/737113?login=false 
  4. Jayes, L, Haslam, PL, Gratziou, CG, Powell, P, Britton, J, Vardavas, C, Jimenez-Ruiz, C, Leonardi-Bee, J, Dautzenberg, B, Lundbäck, B, Fletcher, M, Turnbull, A, Katsaounou, P, Heederik, D, Smyth, D, Ravara, S, Sculier, J-P, Martin, F & Orive, JIDG 2016, ‘SmokeHaz: systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the effects of smoking on respiratory health’, CHEST, vol. 150, no. 1, pp164–179, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2016.03.060
  5. Vork, KL, Broadwin, RL & Blaisdell, RJ 2007, ‘Developing asthma in childhood from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke: insights from a meta-regression’, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 115, no. 10, pp1394–1400, https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.10155
  6. Zorbalar, N, Yesilaras, M & Aksay, E 2014, ‘Carbon monoxide poisoning in patients presenting to the emergency department with a headache in winter months’, Emergency Medicine Journal, vol. 31(e1) pp66–70 https://emj.bmj.com/content/31/e1/e66.short 
  7. Coroners Court of Victoria 2013, Inquest into the death of Tyler Robinson, www.coronerscourt.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-12/tylerrobinson_203810.pdf
  8. Vidler, A & Meacham, S, 2022 Sydney family lucky to be alive after faulty heater leaks carbon monoxide https://www.9news.com.au/national/carbon-monoxide-poisoning-three-in-hospital-sydney-faulty-heater/4eb00533-684b-46b7-a150-dbe534709ee2
  9. Kashtan, Y. S., Nicholson, M., Finnegan, C., Ouyang, Z., Lebel, E. D., Michanowicz, D. R., ... & Jackson, R. B. (2023). Gas and Propane Combustion from Stoves Emits Benzene and Increases Indoor Air Pollution. Environmental Science & Technology.
  10. Steffen, W, Hughes, L & Perkins, S 2014, Heatwaves: Hotter, longer, more often, Climate Council of Australia, viewed 16 October 2019, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/heatwaves-report/.
  11. Wood, T., Reeve, A., & Suckling, E. (2023). Getting off gas: why, how, and who should pay? The Grattan Institute Report No. 2023-08 https://grattan.edu.au/report/getting-off-gas/
  12. ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Government 2022, Powering Canberra: our Pathway to Electrification, ACT Government https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/barr/2022/powering-canberra-our-pathway-to-electrification 
  13. Tidemann, C., Bradshaw, S., Rayner, J., & Arndt, D. (2023). Smarter Energy Use: How to cut energy bills and climate harm. The Climate Council https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/CC_MVSA0353-CC-Report-Two-for-One-Home-Energy-Efficiency_V5.1-FA-Screen-Single.pdf 
  14. Bryant, D, Porter, E, Rama, I & Sullivan, D 2022, Power pain: an investigation of energy stress in Australia https://www.bsl.org.au/research/publications/power-pain/
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