Air quality can be impacted by various pollutants and weather events. Air pollutants that threaten the quality of our air include ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. If these pollutants are present in the air at high levels, they can become hazardous to us and our environment. Pollutant levels are influenced by air movements. Calm air movements, with little winds, mean that pollutants cannot disperse which causes them to build up to high levels. Whereas, turbulent air movements, where strong winds blow, pollutants can disperse quickly causing pollutant levels to drop.
Poor air quality can also be a result of extreme weather events such as dust storms and bushfires. They affect air quality immediately by causing:
– A decrease in air quality
– Health problems due to inhalation of fine particles, which may increase the chance of respiratory and cardiovascular disease particularly in children, and cause harm to the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions
– Reduction in visibility
– Residues on surfaces
Bushfires also release large amounts of substances which can result in the creation of ozone and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has the potential for widespread damage to property, the environment, and human life.
Air quality in Queensland is generally considered as good as measured by National Environment Protection Measure (Air NEPM) advisory standards. The pollutants that are monitored throughout Queensland have mostly remained at good levels, with very few occurrences of overall poor air quality recorded. These occurrences have happened in periods when high particle levels have been recorded all areas across Queensland where monitoring takes place, when dust storms and bushfires have taken place. In both South East Queensland and Gladstone, some particle levels have occasionally been above the Air NEPM advisory standards, but this has been because of smoke from vegetation burning. Although the air quality in Queensland is mostly good, it is important that we continue to monitor air quality, so that future pollutant spikes and extreme weather events can be prepared for and managed.
Poor air quality can affect us by impacting our health in different ways. Therefore, controlling and reducing the levels of air pollutants is important for our health, as well as the environment. Air quality monitoring is an important step in the control and reduction of air pollutants. Anybody can view the live air data service to check the current levels of particles in the atmosphere at monitoring stations in the Queensland network. Go to the live air data page on the Department of Environment and Science website to see the air quality indices, which is updated hourly.