How Dirty Is Your Postcode?

An article which lists how polluted each postcode area is.

Thankfully our postcode has no pollution listed.

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I checked our old postcode - High pollution! But how? It is a town of less than 1,000 with no industry 75km from the next town of 80. So who’s the polluter? Are they counting the coal mine 50km away, the farting cattle? There’s no link to the data.

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I have also looked at the information and it doesn’t seem to accurate. I suspect that it has been generated for a political point…rather than its accuracy. It just happens that the most air polluted postcodes are those with coal fired power stations.

If you are in Queensland, the state government collects and reports on air quality around the state. Information can be found here:

I would rather rely on that the the Queensland Government rather than a ‘political’ report issued by a vested interest group.

I am also surprised that the Port of Brisbane is also on their hit list (because of the petroleum industry?) as the Port receives near continual sea breezes from the Pacific Ocean.

It also appears the results are based on estimates and location of industry, rather than actual air quality data like that collected and presented by the Queensland State Government. It is worth noting that the report didn’t use or reference the Queensland Government reports/data. The references are also worth looking at to see if there is any selective referencing to support ones agenda. One can make up their one mind if there is as this impacts on the credibility of the whole report.

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This material is based on the National Pollution Inventory. Note this is an estimate supplied by the polluter not a measurement.

The figures are purely nominal, they are computed using a set of guidelines. If you are wondering how you estimate such down to milligram amounts - they cannot, the figures are synthetic.

Just because a postcode has no recorded pollution doesn’t mean there is no pollution.

All types of pollution, regardless of danger, are rolled into one statistic; kilograms per year. Also the raw statistic takes no account of the area of the postcode so estimated mass of pollutants gives no idea of the intensity.

If you are thinking these maps and tables give any guidance to the level of health risk in your postcode, they might, a bit, in some cases. They may be quite misleading too.

  • Why is it that there are no measured figures for pollution in many places?

  • Why is it that the methods used to record pollution, when they are required, are often at odds with best practice and say little about actual health risk?

  • Why is it that the EPA (in NSW at least and I suspect in other states) is under-skilled, under-funded and afraid to say boo?

  • Why is it that Australian standards for permissible levels of pollution are well out of date and a review has been stalled for years?

  • Why is it that when measuring and reporting systems are put into place and the pollution regularly exceeds the generous standard applied nothing much is done and the exceedances just keep happening?

  • Why is it that the major political parties have just combined to defeat a bill to tighten up on reporting of political donations?

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That is a significant limitation. Emission reported under the NPI don’t mean air pollution. NPI is about the amount or emissions of particular contaminants and not the levels measured in and proximity to the emission point (which is air pollution).

Air pollution is based on recognised concentrations which are known or likely to cause health impacts.

Just because a emitter may have elevated levels of air contaminants being emitted from its operations, it does not necessarily mean that it causes air pollution about these established limits.

If the ACF wanted to make the report of more value with possible realistic conclusions, they should have tested their pollution estimates from real data collected say by government agencies. It wasn’t done so the value in the report, other than being used for political purposes and to stimulate concern within the community, is limited.

It is also unfortunate that the ABC accepted the information from the ACF as is, without doing its own critical analysis before its release on its website. This seems to be a more recent trend/regular occurrence by the ABC as it often has ‘news stories’ which perpetuate an agenda of others. There were no air pollution experts who provided further information using actual monitoring data about Australian air quality.

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The reported news item the ABC referenced certainly did not make sense on face value. I’ve lived or worked in a number of the places on the list and it does not line up consistently with experience. One of the “dirtiest” and supposedly therefore most polluted places I have lived is inner urban Brisbane, 5km from the GPO near a busy main road. There is a continual fall out of fine black dust, and an aroma to the air that makes the sub tropical summer humidity taste as well as arouse the other senses. No offence intended Bris Vegas, inner Western Sydney etc is no better.

It is the almost invisible fine dusts that have the greatest potential to get into your lungs and stay there! Finely ground rubber and bituminous compounds from the road seals and vehicle tyres, plus the wonderful mix of exhaust gases.

True a coal fired power station emits very large quantities of CO2. We breath CO2 even in the most remote untouched jungles. It’s local effect is probably very minor, while it’s global effect is significant.
The ABC should have chosen a more apt headline!

CO2 is not dirt!

I can see value in reviewing the ABC news item - given that some of us see issues with the context and reliability of the report. Since I rely on the ABC for my daily news reading first and foremost I had already noted the news item. Would it be better where possible for the CHOICE Community if any new referenced news items are put in context and explained adequately when they are first posted?

Eg - the item supports or argues against a consumer outcome, the item is of consumer interest and offers an alternative, the item offers a timely warning and advice that is able to be verified (such as a recall), or the item looks suspect or dodgy.

While Choice as an organisation is politically aware and active, I’d wonder if there is also a need to be cautious about inadvertently accepting political agendas from other organisations?

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A mate of mine who lives in Gladstone worked as a supervisor during the construction of the shale oil extraction plant there many years ago.

During the commissioning, a helicopter was used to test the emissions emanating from the stack. My mate asked the person in charge as to what they had found and he was told that everything was fine.

The person then went on to say that if you want to see real pollution, then to check out the cane farms around Tully in FNQ as they are badly contaminated with heavy metals.

The compost produced by the Bedminster waste treatment plant in Cairns was being transported to Tully to be used on the cane farms.

The plant turns anything organic into compost in 3 days including dead horses, but the input materials are not purely organic.

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I’d also be interested to know why 0812 (Malak, NT) is listed. I’m not disputing it - only querying what the pollutants are. The only thing I can think of that might contribute to pollution would be the nearby airport - though there are closer suburbs that didn’t get a mention.

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Another reminder of the ‘hidden’ cost of pollution.

The problem of fine particulates (PM2.5) not being measured or controlled and of the consequences being swept under the rug continues. Frequently the only thing measured is larger particulates (PM10 and above) which do not travel as far and are not nearly as harmful. Yet the coal mines and power stations continue to keep their profits while socialising their costs because it is all within current standards.

If hundreds of deaths were caused by terrorists instead of the few that are, no government could stay in office without throwing enormous resources at the problem. But this silent killer goes on ignored.

Somebody once waved a lump of coal about in parliament and said “don’t be afraid of it”. You should be.

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Our home postcode is 2222. It’s all number twos, so… :laughing:

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It could be that the ABC has to work in whatever budget they are given, and [insufficient] budget can impact the amount of investigation or diligence that can be done. It seems so many of our so-called protective agencies as well as the ABC are struggling under the same constraints, financial as well as their legal scopes and powers or lack thereof.

A cynic might conclude it is all planned, scoped, and purposed to create window dressing that delivers votes to the government and donations to the pollies, rather than serving our interests.

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On a similar pathway as the prior older discussion.
The previous posts date from 2018. So does the data used in this just released assessment.

Intended consistency, and an attempt to normalise results independent of irregular events? EG construction, bushfires, land clearing, ….

The interactive map was a little slow to respond. With some patience it eventually came good.

But how much of it is actual data? We do not have measurements of all the area displayed, so they fill in with estimates and computed values.

Data shows predictions from a spatial model of PM2.5 based on land use and satellite image data.

Unless the details are available about how this is done it is hard to say what it means. For example there are files available to the public of air pollution due to mining. In a few cases (eg upper hunter) there are measuring devices but for most it is a guess based on the size of the mine and the typical pollution levels of that activity. As for checking your postcode, even if there are measurements, which way does the wind blow most in respect of your house?

Or are you an indoor person, or an outdoor person, or someone who possibly commutes daily to work in a not so clean environment?

The higher levels mostly map to areas of greater urban density. Not a surprise, however the relative intensity may be?

Yes the Melbourne and Sydney basins are not good places to breath. Also there is more red where there are mines. Hunter valley, Lockyer valley, Gunnedah etc.

But what about the west of the ranges? Narrabri, Gillgandra, Griffith, Flinders Ranges and many areas on the rim of the grey (inland) area with no data. It isn’t mining or vehicles, I can only think it is dust.

True the further west the dustier it can be. Natural or human activity accelerated.

I looked to the mostly east of the Divide areas I know well in QLD as far north as the Daintree. For many it appears agricultural use is a possible factor. Around Mackay and Gympie the areas of greater impact follow cleared land areas, and the lower estimates (best guesses) the remnant state forests or national parks. In areas where the agriculture is predominantly hard hoofed cattle it’s often mapped with higher PM 2.5 dust potential, and similar in instances to the cane growing regions.

Curiosity is many of the areas that get bad press for mining dust (EG Bowen Basin, Upper Hunter) do not score high levels of PM2.5. I had to change the default setting on the map to display all for CQ. The researchers did advise these other areas do not have sufficient data. Although all mining and related activities are required to monitor their environmental performance against approval conditions, and for occupational health.