Following devastating bush fires, Sydney has been blanketed in smoke, leading to dangerous levels of air pollution. An analysis of all Australian monitoring stations listed on the World Air Quality Index website shows that the recent developments have pushed three Sydney area monitoring stations into the top 10 of the worst polluted places in Australia in 2019.
Of most concern to human health is the concentration of particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers that can linger in the air for long periods of time and are easily inhaled. They can stem from fires, but also from exhaust fumes, power plants and dust storms. In Sydney, the PM2.5 concentration was recently three times more severe than it had been at any point in the past five years.
Suburbs Liverpool and Rouse Hill as well as Sydney-area Richmond experienced between nine and 15 days of unhealthy air quality, some of them classified by the index as “very unhealthy”, all since the beginning of November. Tasmanian stations in Geeveston and Cygnet, which detected pollution from Tasmanian bushfires in January and February, measured more severe pollution, but counted less days with dangerous levels in total. Tamworth in New England and Armidale in the Northern Tablelands were two more NSW cities experiencing high levels of pollution due to the recent fires. In the latter, conditions were classified as “hazardous” with PM2.5 particle levels at 374 on Nov. 22.