Environment

‘Invisible killer’: Air pollution levels spike in Sydney’s west

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Western Sydney residents endure worse air quality than those in the east, with Liverpool exceeding annual national air quality standards for exposure to particulate pollution by 25 per cent, government data reveals.

The results come as authorities warned of smoke in the Sydney basin over the weekend from hazard-reduction burning by the Rural Fire Service.

Separately, a new paper led by researchers at the Centre for Air Pollution, Energy and Health Research found even low-level air pollution exposure lifts mortality risks according to a study of about 75,000 Sydneysiders.

Sydney's air pollution is worse in the west than the east - but any level is bad for your health.

Sydney's air pollution is worse in the west than the east – but any level is bad for your health.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Liverpool last year reported average daily levels of particulates of 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5) of 10.1 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the national standard of 8, according to Office of Environment and Heritage data.

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The region, on Sydney's south-west edge, has exceeded the PM2.5 standard for at least the past four years. Liverpool also had 10 days above the maximum recommended for ozone and 13 days above the maximum for the larger PM10 particles.

For ozone pollution, which can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory ailments, all monitoring stations west of Strathfield topped the national standard of 8 parts per hundred million on more than one day, up from half the sites in 2015.

None of the stations in the east exceeded that level last year, where the average was only 0.3 days compared with 7.8 days at western sites.

Pollution data collected by OEH monitors show ozone pollution levels have jumped in the west, compared with the east, in recent years.

Pollution data collected by OEH monitors show ozone pollution levels have jumped in the west, compared with the east, in recent years.Credit:OEH

'Time to tighten up'

Kate Smolski, chief executive of the NSW Nature Conservation Council, said air pollution was "an invisible killer", and that it was time the Berejiklian government and other jurisdictions in Australia combined to tighten the national standards.

“The Australian standard for sulphur dioxide is 11 times higher than the World Health Organisations and almost three time higher than limits set in the United States," Ms Smolski said.

“Coal-burning power stations on the Central Coast and Hunter Valley are the major source of sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen in Sydneys air."

Sydney's east typically has better air quality in the east than inland areas.

Sydney's east typically has better air quality in the east than inland areas.Credit:Nick Moir

Drought link

A spokeswoman for OEH said the state's overall air quality had improved over the previous 15-20 years but the drought had contributed to the recent jump in pollution.

"Across metropolitan Sydney, there has been no significant difference in particle pollution between Sydney East, Sydney North-west and Sydney South-west over the past four years, except for 2018 when the entire states air quality was impacted by increased dust from drought-affected areas and smoke from wild fires and hazard reduction burns," she said.

"Ozone levels can be higher in Western Sydney, particularly during hot summers," the spokeswoman said, adding NSW had just experienced its hottest year on record with January Sydney's hottest ever month. Sea breezes help ease pollution levels over eastern suburbs.

For its part, the Environment Protection Authority said air quality in NSW was comparable to parts of Australia and air pollution concentrations were low by world standards.

"There has been a long-term Read More – Source