The central Queensland city of Gladstone experienced four of the five worst days for air pollution in the state so far this year, as asthma advocates called for more to be done about air quality across the country.
Asthma Australia has pointed to the air quality data publicly available from government sources to show that Gladstone had the worst air quality in the state.
UQ respiratory physician and scientist John Upham said that was for a number of reasons, including some controlled burns in the region this year, but was ultimately caused by large amounts of heavy industry in and around the city.
“We used to think there was a safe threshold for air pollution, that below a certain level it was safe and there was no risk of any problem,” Professor Upham said.
“But the more research is done, it’s clear there is really no safe threshold and from a public health point of view you need to reduce the levels as much as possible.”
Gladstone has an aluminium smelter and is home to the Port of Gladstone, which is the state’s largest export port for both coal and gas.
Air quality measures look at levels of fine particles in the air known as PM2.5 (particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less) and PM10 (10 micrometres or less).
On its worst day so far this year, March 26, Gladstone recorded PM2.5 levels of 485.2 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) which is rated “Extremely Poor”, compared to a “Good” level of 25ug/m3.
For comparison, the most polluted city in Australia for a single day so far this year was Oakdale, south-west of Sydney, on May 3 with a PM2.5 level of 661ug/m3, followed closely by Darwin suburb Winnellie on July 6 with a PM2.5 reading of 660.9ug/m3.