Macleay Island man calls on Redland council to take action amid fears of serious illness from unsealed road dust

DUST WORRIES: Residents at a 2019 Russell Island meeting spoke out about the health impacts of unsealed roads.
DUST WORRIES: Residents at a 2019 Russell Island meeting spoke out about the health impacts of unsealed roads.

A SOUTHERN Moreton Bay Island resident has called for action on unsealed roads after an alleged cluster of serious medical problems on Macleay Island.

Macleay Island man Ross Byrne said lung and autoimmune diseases had been detected in 10 people on Macleay Island over the past five years.

He said six people had died.

"Most sufferers believe their illnesses were caused or aggravated by dust from the light greyish road material (used to surface unsealed roads)," he said.

The illnesses did not have proven links to the material used to surface roads.

Mr Byrne said he had concerns about crystalline silica, a hazardous chemical.

Cr Mark Edwards said he had heard reports of illness - mostly coughs and other respiratory problems - but proving a link to dust from unsealed roads required scientific evidence.

A council spokesperson said for the past year, council had been trialling a product called profilings as a substitute for traditional road base maintenance gravel on island roads.

"This product has similar characteristics to road base gravel but is proving to last longer and produce less dust," the spokesperson said.

"Laboratory testing of a sample of profilings returned a respirable quartz content of less than one per cent and a total quartz content of 30 per cent.

"In 2009 and 2019 ... tests on a number of island roads returned results that were within acceptable guidelines for respirable crystalline silica."

Mr Byrne said council had needed to be more transparent with residents.

"For five years the council has been largely silent on the subject of unsealed roads resurfacing, the makeup of the surface material (and) whether it complies with Australian health standards," he said.

"There is a need to establish the extent of dust related lung and other ... diseases on the islands."

The council spokesperson did not respond to questions about what had been done to address residents' concerns.

MP Andrew Laming said he committed in April last year to fund the green sealing of Tingara Street on Macleay and on streets on Russell. The work was to be done by council this year.

Cr Edwards said a report on unsealed roads would be put before council at a meeting in late January.

"The number one responsibility council has is to the community, so if (the report shows) any link to any illness, no matter what that is, I think council really needs to act quickly and act in the community's best interest," he said.

"But I know just looking when cars drive past on dirt roads, the dust hanging there, it's not pleasant and obviously those particles are ingested when you breathe.

"But it's even more than that. It gets up on the roof in the gutters and the next thing you know you've got inches of mud in your water tanks.

"I know people will turn around and say 'you chose to live on those roads', but as a society we progress year to year - they shouldn't be stuck in the past.

"The residents who live on those roads that get sealed, their whole life changes."