Industry sources for airborne pollutants can be the industrial processes themselves or the vehicles used by industry. Airborne industrial pollutants More than 4,000 industrial facilities report to the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) in Australia. The types of pollutants emitted depend on the industrial activity. In general, the industries with the largest emissions are mining, steel production and metal processing, power generation and petroleum refining (DAWE 2020b). The types of emissions vary with industry: Heavy industries such as mining, steel production and metal processing, power generation and petroleum refining tend to emit carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), coarse particulate matter (PM10) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Agricultural operations such as feedlots emit large volumes of ammonia. Ammonia gas is very quick to react in the atmosphere, forming inorganic particulate compounds such as ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate. These inorganic aerosols then contribute to the levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Various manufacturing processes can emit air toxics such as hydrochloric acid, cyanide, dioxins and furans. Emissions of CO and NOx generally increased from 2015 to 2019; emissions of PM10 and SO2 first decreased but then increased across the same period (Figure 41); and emissions of VOCs have increased over the past 5 years to 130 million kilograms per year (kg/yr). This is reflected in the changes in emissions per person of SO2 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for Australia. Despite both SO2 and NO2 per-person emissions being the highest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, between 2013 and 2018, SO2 emissions per person decreased by 18.68 kg (18%), and NO2 emissions per person increased by 1.52 kg (1%) (OECD 2021). Emissions of PM2.5 remained fairly steady. Emissions of lead have also increased, from 370,000 kg/yr in 2015 to 390,000 kg/yr in 2019. Emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated dioxins and furans have been steadily decreasing since 2015. Figure 41 Annual emissions of major pollutants emitted by industry, 2015–19 Expand View Figure 41 Annual emissions of major pollutants emitted by industry, 2015–19 CO = carbon monoxide; kg/yr = kilogram per year; NOx = nitrogen oxides; PM2.5 = fine particulate matter; PM10 = coarse particulate matter; SO2 = sulfur dioxide; VOC = volatile organic compound Note: Annual emissions of lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated dioxins and furans were too small to fit on the same axes. Source: National Pollutant Inventory Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Industrial emissions tend to be point sources, and generally have the largest effect on their local area. Industrial operations are usually located convenient to where people live (near the coasts), with access to transport facilities such as ports, or geographically for primary industries such as agriculture and mining (Figure 42). For some industries, tall chimney stacks are designed to allow winds to transport emissions quickly away from the immediate local area and become diluted downwind. Figure 42 Locations of industries in Australia reporting to the National Pollutant Inventory Expand View Figure 42 Locations of industries in Australia reporting to the National Pollutant Inventory Note: Some operations are offshore. Source: DEE (2021) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Some towns have been built around a major industrial employer such as a power station or mine. Unfortunately, when atmospheric conditions are stagnant and winds are calm, residents living close to these industries will be exposed to poor air quality. There is also a risk of industrial accidents, which can result in acute exposure of local residents to smoke and other toxins from substances that may be stored at the site (see case study: Hazelwood mine fire). There have been several large fires in recent years at waste processing stations, warehouses and industrial storage facilities that caused short-term extremely poor air quality for local residents (Table 1). Case Study Hazelwood mine fire In February 2014, spot grass fires ignited the coal seam at the Hazelwood open-cut coal mine in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. The location of the mine is just across the main M1 highway from the town of Morwell, with a population of approximately 14,000 people. The fire burned for 45 days. Very high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) (peak hourly predictions of 3,730 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) for PM2.5 and 58.6 parts per million (ppm) for CO) were estimated to have occurred in the first 2 days of the burn (Luhar et al. 2020), before smoke monitoring was able to commence. Favourable wind conditions helped to transport smoke away from Morwell towards the end of the first week of the burn, before firefighters gained some control of the fire. However, over the 45-day duration of the fire, residents of Morwell experienced exceedances of the air quality standards for PM2.5 on 23 days and for CO on 8 days. The Hazelwood Health Study was set up in 2015 with funding from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to examine ongoing health effects experienced by residents of the Latrobe Valley, resulting from exposure to the mine fire smoke. The study is expected to continue for 10 years. Researchers set out to examine whether the mine fire has contributed to adverse health consequences in the short and long terms, including low birth weights of babies born to expectant mothers who were exposed, child development, psychological distress and incidence of cancer. Scientists also studied the health outcomes in a control population in Sale who were not exposed to the mine fire smoke. The Hazelwood study could not study the whole populations of both towns and depended on patient volunteers coming forward. Respiratory and cardiovascular health in adults Residents of Morwell began to experience symptoms within 2 days of the fire starting, with increases in visits to the emergency department for respiratory and cardiovascular problems (Guo et al. 2020). For each increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM2.5, there was an 11% increase in visits to doctors and a 22% increase in use of respiratory services (Johnson et al. 2020). Compared with the control population, those exposed to smoke from the mine fire were more likely to experience a cough with phlegm and wheezing (Johnson et al. 2019). Three years after the fire, Morwell residents were reporting a higher level of ongoing respiratory symptoms than residents of Sale (Ikin et al. 2020). However, there was no evidence of ongoing cardiovascular problems 4 years after the fire. Maternity and child health With such high concentrations of smoke in the atmosphere, there were concerns about impacts on developing fetuses and the health of children. Thankfully, there were no associations between exposure to smoke from the fire and fetal growth and maturity (Melody et al. 2019). However, mothers were more likely to have gestational diabetes, resulting in heavier babies: there was a 97 g increase per 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 (Melody et al. 2020). There was also a greater incidence of antibiotics being dispensed to infants exposed to the mine fire smoke (Shao et al. 2020a). The lung function of children aged less than 2 years at the time of the mine fire showed some damage 3 years later, which increased per unit increase of 10 μg/m3 in average PM2.5 (Shao et al. 2020b). These children also showed increases in vascular stiffness (Zhao et al. 2020). Mental health Morwell residents were anxious about their exposure to the smoke and impacts on their health (Jones et al. 2018). Exposure to the mine fire smoke was found to be associated with high levels of psychological distress, particularly in young adults (Broder et al. 2020). There were still ongoing post-traumatic stress symptoms 2 years after the fire, suggesting that incident support for communities needs to continue well after the initial event (Maybery et al. 2020). Some residents were able to evacuate, but, because of the low socio-economic background of this region, most residents stayed in Morwell. Local schools were closed, and children were educated away from Morwell during the day, causing uncertainty and disrupted learning patterns. The use of a trauma-informed approach to teaching was beneficial, taking into account the individual needs and circumstances of each student (Berger et al. 2018). Residents used a wide range of social media platforms as part of their coping strategies, to help inform others and to feel part of a community. Authorities also used social media as a fast way to get short messages out to communities. However, the increased need for clear information during an extreme event means that social media cannot replace face-to-face contact between authorities and residents (Yell & Duffy 2018). Faster response for monitoring systems There was a lag of approximately 4 days between the fire starting and teams from CSIRO and the Environment Protection Authority Victoria mobilising instruments to measure the smoke in Morwell (Reisen et al. 2017). Assistance from the Environment Protection Authority Tasmania arrived 10 days into the fire, with a DustTrak instrument mounted to a vehicle (Innis et al. 2015). It was clear from the air quality modelling that high concentrations of pollutants in Morwell were missed when the fire started. In response to the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry, 10 mobile incident smoke monitors were situated around regional Victoria so that State Emergency Services can deploy them quickly and easily when required (Premier of Victoria 2017). New South Wales also built several portable air quality monitoring pods containing air quality and meteorological instruments, which can quickly be deployed to incidents (New South Wales Government 2017). Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Nonregulated diesel engines Nonregulated diesel engines (NRDE) include vehicles used for mining activities, farming, and large industrial operations such as airports and construction. Although NRDE make up around 3% of on-road vehicle numbers (DAWE 2020a), generally their much bigger sizes mean that they emit much more CO, NOx, PM and VOCs per vehicle than other road vehicles. NRDE emissions are classed as off-road mobile sources in the NPI, and make up 3% of total Australian VOC emissions and 5% of total NOx emissions (Figure 36). Preliminary investigations have shown that NRDE emit approximately double the PM emissions of the entire Australian on-road fleet (NSW EPA 2014). Although in-flight emissions are not considered in the NPI, NRDE from on-airport operations have increased as the numbers of passengers entering and leaving Australian airports has increased – on average, by approximately 44,000 trips per year since 2016 (ABS 2020c). In 2019, the NPI reported a total of 1.5 million kilograms of VOC emissions and 7.8 million kilograms of NOx emissions from aeroplanes and airport operations. However, the impacts of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic mean that the on-airport emissions (and in-flight emissions) in 2020 and beyond will be significantly reduced. Unlike many other countries that manufacture diesel engines, Australia currently has no regulations that limit the emissions of off-road diesel engines. However, as part of the National Clean Air Agreement, the Australian Government is investigating a national approach to reducing NRDE emissions (see National Clean Air Agreement work plan). Shipping Shipping is not considered in the NPI because it is a moving source occurring offshore. However, emissions do occur when ships are in port, as services such as heating, cooling, lighting and refrigeration need to be maintained. Ships emit high quantities of NOx and SO2. In the New South Wales greater metropolitan region, which includes the industrial port areas of Newcastle and Wollongong, levels of NOx, SO2, PM10 and PM2.5 in shipping emissions increased from 2003 to 2013 (Figure 43). In December 2016, the Australian Government introduced specific requirements for cruise ships with a capacity for more than 100 passengers to use fuel with 0.1% or less sulfur while at berth in Sydney Harbour (AMSA 2020). The potential for provision of power from the shore would avoid burning fuel in port. COVID-19 has also devastated the cruise ship industry, meaning that shipping emissions for 2020 in Australia will be reduced. Figure 43 Shipping emissions in the greater metropolitan region of New South Wales (includes Newcastle, Wollongong and non-urban regions), 2003, 2008 and 2013 Expand View Figure 43 Shipping emissions in the greater metropolitan region of New South Wales (includes Newcastle, Wollongong and non-urban regions), 2003, 2008 and 2013 kg/yr = kilogram per year; NOx = nitrogen oxides; PM2.5 = fine particulate matter; PM10 = coarse particulate matter; SO2 = sulfur dioxide Source: New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Assessment Pressures affecting ambient air quality 2021 Adequate confidence Most of the pressures on our air quality could have a high impact; however, many sources of air pollution, including motor vehicles, other engines and wood heaters, are stable. The 2 most concerning and increasing pressures are climate change (which is producing more dust and higher ozone levels through increased chemical reactions), and prescribed burning and bushfires (which are increasing in frequency and intensity). Related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets 11.6, 12.4 Legend How was this assessment made Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Assessment Climate change 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 2011 Australia is seeing more extreme events. Rising temperatures, and more frequent heatwaves and droughts lead to more windblown dust and bushfire smoke, and increased chemical reaction rates in the atmosphere (e.g. more ozone). Assessment Prescribed burning and bushfires 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 2011 Smoke is a major air pollutant, and most often the cause of exceedances of the air quality standards. Assessment Motor vehicles 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 2011 Increasing vehicle numbers and city congestion lead to poor air quality, particularly at commuting times. Tyre and brake dust are a major source of pollution. Assessment Other engines 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence 2016 2011 Garden power tools and small marine motors are high emitters of volatile organic compounds relative to their size. Assessment Urban footprint 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 Australia’s increasing population puts pressure on air quality through additional vehicles, heating and amenities. More than 90% of Australians live in cities. Assessment Encroachment of urban development into rural fringe 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 Cities are growing outwards into greenbelt areas, and increasing the network of busy roads. This increases the spatial extent of emissions. Assessment Domestic wood heaters 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 Smoke from domestic wood heaters during winter continues to cause air quality issues in many areas. Assessment Industry adjacent to regional populations 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 The development or expansion of heavy industry into rural settings affects local air quality. There has also been an increase in the accidental release of pollutants from industrial facilities. Assessment Industrial point sources 2021 Adequate confidence 2016 2011 Point-source pollution is mitigated via regulations, but there are legacy issues with old equipment. Some toxic pollutant emissions are increasing. Assessment Nonregulated diesel engines 2021 Somewhat adequate confidence 2016 The level of emissions from these unregulated diesel engines (nonroad industrial vehicles such as earth movers) is unknown.