Media Release: Sunday 14 May 2017
An investigation by Environmental Justice Australia has revealed alarming errors and under-reporting of toxic pollution from the five large coal-fired power stations in New South Wales.Read more
Our air pollution campaign team is holding workshops in communities close to Australia’s largest, most polluting power stations.Read more
Contact with sulfur dioxide or oxides of nitrogen can have dramatic health impacts. The below information is taken from www.npi.gov.au.
Exposure of the eyes to liquid sulfur dioxide, (from, for example an industrial accident) can cause severe burns, resulting in the loss of vision. On the skin it produces burns. Other health effects include headache, general discomfort and anxiety. Those with impaired heart or lung function and asthmatics are at increased risk. Repeated or prolonged exposure to moderate concentrations may cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, wheezing and lung damage. It has also proved to be harmful to the reproductive systems of experimental animals and caused developmental changes in their newborn.
Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
Low levels of oxides of nitrogen can irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs, possibly leading to coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness and nausea. Exposure can also result in a build up of fluid in the lungs for 1-2 days after exposure. Breathing high levels of oxides of nitrogen can cause rapid burning, spasms and swelling of tissues in the throat and upper respiratory tract, reduced oxygenation of tissues, a build up of fluid in the lungs, and maybe even death. Skin or eye contact with high concentrations of oxides of nitrogen gases or nitrogen dioxide liquid will likely lead to serious burns.
- Sulfur Dioxide (npi.gov.au)
- Sulfur Dioxide (environment.gov.au)
- Oxides of Nitrogen (npi.gov.au)
- Oxides of Nitrogen (environment.gov.au)
- Health impacts of coal dust
New South Wales
The NSW EPA has Australia’s most extensive and up-to-date air pollution website. It is simple to download monitoring data for any or all monitoring of the state’s 45 sites for pollutants of interest.
- Download monitoring data
- Air quality in NSW overview
- Sydney monitoring sites
- Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network
- Newcastle Local Air Quality Monitoring Network
The Qld EPA has 28 monitoring stations in SE Qld, Gladstone, Townsville, Mackay and Mt Isa. It is not straightforward to access monitoring data. The best option is to search for ‘air quality’ at Queensland Government Data
- Live monitoring data, reports, monitoring programs investigations
- Qld coal dust monitoring
- EPA studies on pollution hotpots (coal dust management, Gladstone, Mt Isa, Townsville)
- EPA monitoring network
For assistance accessing monitoring data, contact Dave Wainwright (Department of Science Information Technology and Innovation): email@example.com
It is not straightforward to access data for the 15 monitoring stations maintained by the Victorian EPA. Monthly reports are published as pdfs and data is not readily available in csv or Excel format. Data takes several months (as much as a year) to be published on the VEPA website.
- Air monitoring results
EPA Hourly air quality interactive map
Subscribe to EPA bulletins. This site is most useful if you click on the tab for the pollutant you’re especially interested in, then on the ‘view hourly air quality data as a table’ link (on the right). Interpreting this data can be a bit tricky because the VEPA don’t say whether PM concentrations are averaged over 1 hour or 24 hours.
- EPA Interaction Portal - pollution licences
- EPA Interaction Portal - annual performance statements for major pollutors
- Latrobe Valley EPA monitoring following the Hazelwood mine fire in February 2014
Latrobe Valley Air Quality Monitoring Network (industry monitoring data, monthly tables)
You can request monitoring data by emailing or phoning (03 5135 5078) the LVAQMN.
1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) For assistance accessing monitoring data, contact Jason Choi (Vic EPA) Jason.Choi@epa.vic.gov.au
It is not straightforward to access air pollution monitoring data for the 13 sites maintained by the DER, and can be expensive. It is necessary to complete an information request form.
Air quality index
Be cautious when interpreting any pollution index. You will get a more accurate picture of air quality by relying instead on raw data.
- Air quality data (this is an archived page)
- WA monitoring locations (this is also an archived page)
For assistance accessing monitoring data, contact Arthur Grieco (Department of Environment Regulation) Arthur.Grieco@DER.wa.gov.au
It is not straightforward to access data for the 10 monitoring stations maintained by the EPA South Australia. Not all pollutants are monitored at each site (only 4 monitor PM2.5). The EPA website provides a summary of the latest 24 hours of monitoring, but the summary lacks the necessary information to allow accurate interpretation.
For longer term data sets, it is necessary to search for ‘air quality’ on the Data SA site and download separate csv files for each monitoring site. Up to date data is often unavailable (up to 12 months).
For larger data sets, make a written request specifying the pollutants, locations and time period to Trinh Tran, Senior Scientific Officer, Air Monitoring, EPA South Australia Trinh.Tran@sa.gov.au
- Air pollution monitoring data (Be cautious when interpreting any pollution index. You will get a more accurate picture of air quality by relying instead on raw data.)
- Monitoring sites (map)
- Air pollution monitoring data (Note: When we last looked, this site had data to December 2013 - nothing more recent.)
Base-line Air Network of EPA Tasmania (BLANkET)
Real time data for 29 monitoring stations around Tasmania, all monitoring PM10 and PM2.5. Follow the link ‘Use this link to access annual plots and 'most recent 30 day' plots of day averaged BLANkET data’ (near the top of the page) to plot trends for any of these monitoring sites.
- Air pollution reports and investigations
- Tasmania’s annual NEPM compliance reports
For help obtaining and interpreting air quality monitoring data, contact: John Innis, Senior Scientific Officer (Air Monitoring Coordinator), Scientific and Technical Branch, EPA Division, Level 7, 134 Macquarie St Hobart TAS 7001. Ph. 03 6165 4609 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian Capital Territory
Although hourly data is easily accessible, it is not straightforward to access data from ACT monitoring sites dating back in terms of weeks, months or years.
Data for the two monitoring sites maintained by the NT EPA are available at the following link. Due to a strange set-up involving their URL, it is not possible to link to their air quality map. However, there is a very clear menu to the left of the page to access the map.
- Air quality index (click the "GIS map" link to see these sites on a map)
Each year more than 3000 Australians die premature deaths from urban air pollution.
The World Health Organization recently announced that air pollution is now the world’s largest environmental health risk, estimating that air pollution caused ‘3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012’.
In Australia, the evidence is clear that thousands of preventable deaths occur every year. Some communities are much more affected than others, depending on how close they are to pollution sources.
Health experts have reported a wide range of adverse health outcomes from air pollution, including exacerbation of chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Air pollution worsens asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and can increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke and lung cancer, and hinders lung development.
Pollutant impacts vary but there is a consensus that there is no ‘safe’ level of exposure for many of these pollutants and that there are harmful impacts from exposure at levels even below the current air quality standards.
While air pollution affects everyone, it affects particular groups in the community more than others. Groups who are more likely to be vulnerable to the health effects of air pollutants include:
- pregnant women
- elderly people
- asthmatics and people with chronic disease (especially heart and lung diseases)
- low socio-economic groups.
You are most at risk from the health impacts of air pollution if you live near:
- industrial pollution sources such as coal mines, coal-fired power stations and smelters
- heavily used road and rail transport corridors
- wood smoke from home fires
"The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes...Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe."
- World Health Organization Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health
There are two good ways to learn more about air pollution where you live.
First, you can learn about the air pollution monitoring conducted nearby. In Australian cities, the environment department or Environmental Protection Authority has a network of air pollution monitoring stations. Details about these stations and the pollution levels they record are available here.
Second, the National Pollutant Inventory provides free information about emissions of 93 toxic substances. By searching the NPI site, you can identify major polluters in any part of Australia and learn how their emissions to air, water and land have varied year by year.
Particle pollution causes serious health problems in Australia. Coal mines are responsible for almost half the nation’s total coarse particle (PM10) emissions each year, and emissions have doubled in the last five years. Coal-fired power stations are a major source of fine particle (PM2.5) emissions. In the Latrobe Valley, power stations emitted 4.3 million kilograms of PM2.5 pollution in 2013-14, more than 97% of the Valley’s total PM2.5 pollution.
Iron ore dust from port operations
Pollution from iron ore dust regularly exceeds national standards. Hospitalisation for respiratory problems is 30% higher than WA average.
Copper, lead, zinc mines
Asthma mortality rates are 322% higher than the rest of Queensland. At least 11% of children have lead posioning.
Coal operations, aluminium smelter, chemical manufacturing
Community concern for years over excessive coal dust, alumina dust and other toxic air pollutants.
8.6 million tonnes of coal a year transported through Brisbane suburbs in uncovered trains.
Coal mines and coal trains
The national standard for PM10 pollution was exceeded 171 times in 2013 in the Hunter region.
Coal mines and coal firest power stations
One of the highest PM pollution levels in Australia. The 2014 Hazlewood coal mine fire cause pollution 15 times the acceptable limit.
Diesel trucks - 7000 trucks daily on one residential street
Particle pollution exceeds safe healthy levels on numerous days each year.
Nearby industrial estate
Worst air and dust pollution levels in Melbourne. Particulate pollution regularly exceeds acceptable limit.
Coal mines and power station
Power station emits high levels of sulphur dioxide.
Lead smelter - one of the biggest in the world
More than 3000 children have been lead poisoned in the last decade.
Coal mine and power station
Power stations are the most polluting in Australia. Lung cancer rates twice the expected number. Highest rate of childhood asthma in the State.
Iron pelletising plant
Lung cancer rates are 50 times higher in Whyalla than similar towns.
To download an infographic showing these air pollution hotspots, click here
More than 3000 Australians die from long-term and short term exposure to air pollution each year. Air pollution affects the health of thousands of others, as well as harming the natural environment and increasing greenhouse emissions.
Current laws do not adequately protect Australians from air pollution. Transport air pollution in our cities is increasing, affecting millions of people. Our laws also fail to address problems in pollution hotspots where standards are often exceeded. That means communities living near coal mines and coal fired power stations, industrial facilities, and major transport corridors are regularly exposed to unsafe levels of pollutants. They pay disproportionately for resources used by our whole community.
Monitoring and enforcement of current laws is weak or non-existent. The Commonwealth and States are failing to protect the health of our communities and our environment from the harmful effects of air pollution.
New national laws are needed to protect our health.
About the Clean Air Action Network
The Clean Air Action Network is a group of organisations working together to tackle air pollution as an environmental justice issue. Lead by Environmental Justice Australia, organisations from all around Australia are working together to put pressure on governments - both state and federal - to take real action.
Air pollution is an environmental justice issue. Communities that live near a pollution source suffer disproportionate impacts. That’s why Environmental Justice Australia is working with partner groups to achieve strong, national laws to regulate air pollution.
If your organisation is interested in becoming a part of the Clean Air Action Network, or if you're just looking to get in touch, send an e-mail through to email@example.com or visit our contact page.
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