Types of pollution

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
  • carpool
  • walk or cycle, especially for short trips.

Cleaner vehicles

It is estimated that servicing and tuning the worst 20% of all cars would reduce vehicle pollution by approximately 80%.

Making sure that your vehicle is regularly maintained will reduce its impact on all Brisbane residents. 

Buying the most fuel-efficient car that is suitable to your needs will save money and reduce pollution.

Brisbane City Council operates a Vehicle Emissions Testing facility which measures the air pollutant emissions from heavy vehicles.

Book in for a heavy vehicle emissions test with Brisbane City Council.

Vehicle complaints

Report vehicles blowing smoke continuously for over 10 seconds to the Department of Transport and Main Roads smoky vehicle hotline on 132 019 or via their online form.


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 the home's air quality by:

  • ventilating the 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).

Find out more.

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.

Council has advice on selecting home cooling and heating to achieve the best outcome for the environment. 

Wood heaters

Smoke from wood heaters contains just 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. Find out more.

Bushfires and planned burning

Bushfires can contribute a large load of air pollutants to Brisbane’s airshed. Planned burning is important to manage the bushfire threat to homes 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 will be notified of the planned burn by letterbox drop.

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. Steps you can take to decrease your risk from smoke include:

  • keep up to date with bushfire alerts and Council information on planned burning activities
  • if you have a chronic medical condition, be sure to ask your doctor about steps you can take to help you control your symptoms when air quality is poor
  • be prepared with enough medication in the house to last you for several days
  • if you are having trouble breathing or experience chest pain, seek medical advice immediately
  • avoid physical activity and stay indoors
  • keep indoor air as clean as possible:
    • keep windows and doors closed and use draught excluders
    • turn on your air-conditioner if you have one and turn it onto “re-circulate”
    • use a clean filter for the air-conditioner and have some spare filters in the house
    • a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter may help reduce fine particles in the home. Investigate in advance if one can be fitted to your air conditioner.
    • avoid activities that increase indoor air pollution, such as smoking, burning candles, frying food or vacuuming
  • if it is too hot 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. Heat stress is also a health risk, especially for older adults and people who are unwell.
  • paper dust masks sold at hardware stores will not protect you from inhaled smoke.
  • 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.
15 September 2017