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Photograph by Kevin Keirnan

A Tasmanian academic warns smoke generated from forest regeneration burns could pose a worse outcome for human health than pollution from car exhausts.

Fay Johnston, a respiratory health researcher with the Menzies Institute, has begun a four-year study on the health effects of wood and bushfire smoke.

The study will take in Tasmania, Western Australia as well as towns and cities in New South Wales.

Dr Johnston says smoke pollution has a detrimental effect for many people.

“In the limited amount of studies that have been done so far that have directly compared smoke from fires with the same level of particulates and smoke from car exhaust, or industry have all tended to show that the effects from the wood smoke are actually worse for lung conditions than a similar amount from, say, car exhausts,” she said.

Gunns’ proposed pulp mill in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley will cost the island’s economy up to $3 billion if something goes wrong, according to a new economic analysis.

The results of the analysis, commissioned by the The Wilderness Society, are in stark contrast to a similar study done for Gunns.

The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) analysis found the most likely outcome of the mill would be a cost of $300 million to the Tasmanian economy until 2030.

Institute head Dr Peter Brain estimated the mill would boost the economy by $1.3 billion in a best-case scenario and in the worst case, $3 billion.

An Allens Consulting Group analysis — commissioned by Gunns — predicted the most likely impact of the mill would be a gain of $3.3 billion.

Dr Brain took into account factors including the cost of lost tourism and the risk of chemical spillage, Gunns changing ownership, a blow-out in capital costs, deaths and sicknesses from environmental damage and the closure of two other paper mills in northern Tasmania.

Allens Consulting had underestimated the opportunity cost of logs consumed in the pulp mill, which could be exported as high-value timber, and the cost of agricultural land clearing, Dr Brain said.

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