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Sydney’s ‘deteriorating’ air quality: Pollution levels above national standards

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

Air quality in Sydney is worse than ever, with pollution levels increasing significantly over the past year.

The dangerous decline in air quality - revealed in a new report by Doctors for the Environment Australia - threatens the health hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders, particularly those in the city’s west.

But this comes as no surprise to Parramatta resident Sarah Jane, who says her kids have been suffering for years.

“The pollution is affecting my kid's asthma - recently, they’ve been using their inhalers more and more,” she said.  

Mrs Jane, a mother of four, says extra inhalers are costing her family at least $20 more per month - a figure which would rise with the pollution levels.

Her four children, aged between 8-16, have been living in the area their whole lives and Mrs Jane plans to keep it that way despite the costs.

“It’s mostly smog - the afternoon is the worst time of day,” she said.

She notices the pollution most when she catches buses, surrounded by people driving cars.

“It affects a lot of people, but many don’t care about the air around them and use their cars anyway.”

Parramatta North, Liverpool, Chullora, Richmond, Campbelltown and Prospect all have fine particle pollution levels above the national standard.

Fine particles present the most serious health risks which include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, as well as low birth weights and issues with children’s lung development.

Author of the report Dr Ben Ewald said in a statement despite government review processes, little has been done to slow the trend.

“Two years ago several members of Doctors for the Environment Australia took part in the government’s review process called “Clean Air for NSW” - but since then air quality has moved in exactly the other direction,” he said.  

The main causes of fine particle pollution are wood smoke, diesel vehicles and cars.

Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia NSW Dr John Van Der Kallen doesn’t think the government is doing enough to minimise pollutants.

“The cumulative impacts of mining and transport of coal are being seen in deterioration of air quality. Worsening air quality has occurred at the same time as an increase in electricity production from coal-fired power stations such as Eraring,” he said in a statement.

“It is time for the government to act on pollution from coal-fired power stations.”

Dr Kallen added last year, 30 doctors had asked the Minister for the Environment, Hon. Gabrielle Upton, to visit the Hunter Valley to “see for herself” the poor air quality.

“She did not visit, and now the situation has worsened,” he said.

Minister Upton dismissed the report, calling it “un-objective” - saying air quality had not been an issue in Sydney until the drought.

“Until the state became drought affected, the state’s overall air quality for the last 15-20 years had been improving with decreased levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, PM10 particles and emissions from motor vehicles and industrial processes in our air,” she said in a statement.


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