How you can contribute to clean air
Air pollution can contain hundreds of different chemicals, but there are six criteria pollutants that are most important for health and are measured at monitoring stations around the city. These pollutants are: Carbon monoxide, Nitrogen dioxide, Particulate matter, Sulphur dioxide, Ozone and Volatile organic compounds.
In Brisbane these pollutants mainly come from motor vehicles, bushfires and large-scale vegetation burning, domestic heating (for example wood heaters), paint fumes and industrial emissions.
Find out what you can do to contribute to clean air in your home, car and at work.
Motor vehicles are responsible for more than 70% of smog in Brisbane. Through population growth it's estimated there will be an increase of over 30% in vehicle kilometres travelled annually by 2026.
Smart travel choices
Consider taking a greener travel option such as:
- public transport
- walk or cycle, especially for short trips.
It is estimated that servicing and tuning the worst 20% of all cars would reduce vehicle pollution by approximately 80%.
Consider options such as:
- making sure that your vehicle is regularly maintained and running well
- buying a fuel-efficient car will save running costs and reduce pollution.
Brisbane City Council also operates a Vehicle Emissions Testing facility which measures the air pollutant emissions from heavy vehicles.
You can save fuel and reduce pollutant emissions from your vehicle by up to 30% simply by following these driving tips:
- accelerate and brake gently
- look ahead and cruise smoothly
- avoid unnecessary idling
- avoid over-use of the air-conditioner
- keep your tyres inflated to the correct pressure for your vehicle
- remove unnecessary weight from your vehicle, for example tool boxes, prams or roof-racks
- combine short trips into one longer round trip. This will help the engine to be warmed up and the emission control equipment to be working properly.
Indoor air quality
Pollutants such as volatile compounds from cleaning agents, new carpets and furniture, nitrogen dioxide from gas appliances and mould spores from damp areas can build up inside the home to create unhealthy air quality. We spend 90% of the day indoors, so residential and office air quality is important to health and well-being.
Protect your home's air quality by:
- ventilating your home
- ensuring gas heaters and stoves are properly flued
- choosing low or no solvent products (for example, linseed oil, water and beeswax polish)
- selecting a particle board or medium-density fibreboard made with low-formaldehyde glue
- using low toxic interior paints and finishes (for example, low or zero volatile organic compounds).
Choosing clean energy
Electricity that comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas not only releases greenhouse gas, but also contributes to air pollution that impacts on health. Choosing electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind, helps to improve air quality and minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
Smoke from wood heaters contains as many toxic compounds as cigarette smoke. Find out how you can avoid creating a smoke nuisance for your neighbours.
Brisbane industries emit a large proportion of nitrogen oxides, particles and volatile organic compounds, which can affect our health. These local industries include:
- service stations
- concrete manufacturing
- petroleum refining
- port operations.
Industry operators can contribute to clean air by using best practice pollution control technologies and procedures in the industry environmental guides.
Bushfires can contribute a large load of air pollutants to Brisbane’s airshed. Planned burning is important to manage the threat of bushfires to safety and air quality. Council uses weather and air quality forecasts to determine the best day for each planned burn and to minimise the smoke impacts. Residents near burn areas are notified by mail in advance of the planned burn.
Smoke contains particles and volatile organic compounds which can present a health risk, especially to young children, the elderly and people with a respiratory or heart condition.
Tips for decreasing your risk:
- Keep up to date with bushfire alerts and Council information on planned burning activities.
- If you have a chronic medical condition, ask your doctor about how you can help control your symptoms when air quality is poor.
- Be prepared with enough medication in the house to last you for several days.
- If you experience trouble breathing or chest pain, seek medical advice immediately.
- Avoid physical activity and stay indoors.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible by:
- keeping windows and doors closed and use draught excluders
- turning on your air-conditioner to 're-circulate'
- using a clean filter for the air-conditioner and have some spare filters ready
- using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to help reduce fine particles in the home. Investigate in advance if one can be fitted to your air-conditioner
- avoiding activities which increase indoor air pollution such as smoking, burning candles, frying food or vacuuming.
- If it is too warm in your home with the doors and windows shut, or if smoke is still leaking into the house, at risk people should arrange for shelter in another location.
- Be aware of heat stress which is a health risk, especially for older adults and people who are unwell.
- Note that paper dust masks sold at hardware stores will not protect you from smoke inhalation.
- When the smoke has cleared, open up the house fully to clear the air. Clean any dusty surfaces with a damp cloth to avoid re-suspending the dust into the air.