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THE IMPACTS OF AIR POLLUTION IN GLADSTONE A Literature Review of the Sources of Air


A Literature Review of the Sources of Air Pollution, the Health Impacts, and Management Strategies

Air Pollution, the Health Impacts, and Management Strategies 7421ENV ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION 8 NOVEMBER 2015 Written and


8 NOVEMBER 2015 Written and Produced by Group 2 Blake Hight (s2816835), Britta Hilkmann (s5028498) and Sinead Liu


Contents Page

Executive Summary


1 Introduction and Aim


2 Methodology


3 Types and Sources of Relevant Air Pollutants


3.1 Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)


3.2 Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)


3.3 Particulate Matter (PM)


4 Human Health Impacts on Air Pollution


5 Management Strategies for Air Pollution


5.1 Air Quality Management Strategy


5.2 Managing Air Pollution on Different Scales


5.2.1 International Management of Air Pollution


5.2.2 National Management of Air Pollution


5.2.3 State Management of Air Pollution


5.2.4 Regional Management of Air Pollution


6 Case Study: Air Pollution Threats in Gladstone


6.1 Major Gladstone Industries


6.2 Industrial Pollution and Health in Gladstone


6.3 Pollution Management in Gladstone


7 Conclusion


Reference List


List of Figures

Figure 1: Air Quality Management Theory


Figure 2: Graph Explaining the Total NOx, SO2 and Particulate Matter Emissions 2008/2009


List of Tables


Table 1: Total NOx, SO2 and Particulate Matter Emissions (Tonnes per Year) 2008/2009


Table 2: Emissions in Gladstone on 17.10.15

List of Abbreviations


Australian Design Rules


Department of Environment and Heritage Protection


DERM Department of Environment and Resource Management


Hazardous Air Pollutants


Nitrous Oxide


National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure




Nitric Oxide


Nitrogen Oxide


Particulate Matter


Sulfur Dioxide


Volatile Organic Compounds


World Health Organisation


Executive Summary

Extensive research indicates that there are many sources of air pollutants and that they will have significantly negative impacts on the environment and on human health. The case study included in the following paper explores the specific air pollution threats in Gladstone. The Gladstone Power Station (NRG) produces over 43,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 35,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per year, but only about 8% of the total particulate matter (PM) released in the Gladstone region (CS Energy, 1997). Mitigating the air pollution impacts will therefore have to be a collaborative worldwide effort, and suitable policy and management strategies must be put in place. However, more research still needs to be conducted in order to understand the difficulty of air pollution and its relationship with other environmental factors, such as the direct impacts of climate change.



Introduction and Aim

Air pollution has always existed through natural processes of the earth’s environment but since the industrial revolution began around 200 years ago, anthropogenic emissions have been rising sharply to the point where human and environmental health are being adversely affected by it. Only recently has science begun to understand the extent of the damage that air pollutants have caused to the environment and human health and methods of managing and mitigating its effects have been introduced. Australia is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita (Yusef et al., 2011) yet it lacks clear and comprehensive air quality standards and due to there being both federal and state regulations, they are complex and confusing (Dobbie & Green, 2015). Current standards rely on the measurement of ambient concentrations over certain periods of time which ignores the direct impacts that localised emissions from point sources can have on the population of industrialised cities (Dobbie & Green, 2015). The National Environment Protection (Ambient Air

Quality) Measure (NEPM) states that ‘the desired environmental outcome of this measure is ambient air quality that allows for the adequate protection of human health and well-being’ (NEPM, 2003, p. 6). The adequate protection of human health

appears to set a low standard and is an overly simplified measurement for such an important issue. Management of air pollution and how it interacts with the public should aim for exemplary standards that can address the environmental and health issues that it is exacerbating.

Gladstone is an industrial city located on the sub-tropical north of Australia’s east coast with a population of 66,000 in 2014 including almost one quarter under 15 years of age and 10% that are over 65 years of age (Gladstone Regional Council, n.d.). Maximum temperatures can reach 42 degrees over summer with the daily average from November to March exceeding 30 degrees (Bureau of Meteorology, n.d.). In 2009 the Gladstone Regional Council in collaboration with the Queensland Government released the Clean and Healthy Air for Gladstone Project to better understand the quality of air in the Gladstone area and how it could be affecting the health of the population (Gladstone Regional Council, n.d.). The project examined the levels and effects of industrial pollutants along with the meteorological factors that affect them. Due to Australia’s large expanses of desert and high temperatures, Gladstone air is also negatively affected by frequent dust storms and bushfires which can push air pollution levels above NEPM standards (Queensland Government, n.d). Bushfires, which degrade air quality through the increase of particulate matter (PM) can be either man-made, such as agricultural and hazard reduction burn-offs, or natural through bush and grass fires.

The variations in meteorological conditions between cities, countries and regions means that the dispersion of air pollution and how it affects climate change will not be evenly distributed (Nordiska Ministerrådet, 2008). Therefore, depending on a region’s meteorological characteristics, such as average wind speeds and direction, rainfall patterns and temperatures, climate will be a mitigating factor in ambient air quality regardless of the levels of emissions from the region. For example, the health effects of temperature are described as a U-shaped curve with continuing decreases in temperature below a certain amount causing an increase in mortality, with rising temperatures past a certain point also increasing rates of mortality (Kan et al., 2012). While the population health of some regions will benefit from rising temperatures, others will be adversely affected. Strategies for the management of air pollution and possible physiological health symptoms will need to take these factors into consideration.


The following study will look at the sources of air pollution in Gladstone with a focus on industrial emissions. There will b e a review of the relevant literature to understand the most common types of industrial pollutants, the health effects that they can cause and the available options for managing their emissions. Throughout the study the current and potential impacts of climate change will be taken into consideration when discussing health and management policies. The case study will use this information to assess the main types of air pollution in Gladstone in addition to any adverse health impacts and the strategies used for emissions management.

2 Methodology

The methodology utilised in this research is an extensive review of the literature based on the sources and the health and environmental impacts of air pollution as well as its management options, and a case study of specific air pollution in Gladstone has been included to explain how air pollution is currently being addressed in a region that has significant problems of air pollutants.

3 Types and Sources of Relevant Air Pollutants

There are many sources and types of air pollutants, both primary and secondary, but arguably the most important ones are nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM) (Seinfeld and Pandis, 2012), which will be explained in more detail in the sections below.

3.1 Nitrogen Oxide (NO x )

The term NOx is used to represent oxides of nitrogen. The ‘x’ specifies the mixture of nitrogen and oxygen in the compound. Of the various forms of NOx that are likely, nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are the most significant air contaminants (Richter, 2009). The primary source of NOx is the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas. The main culprits are motor vehicles and the refining of petrol and metals, but gas stoves, gas and wood heaters and cigarette smoke are also significant sources of nitrogen oxide (Hill, 2010). The harmful effects of these indoor sources are increased when ventilation is poor (Richter, 2009). Oxides of nitrogen are emitted during high-temperature combustion processes. At the point of release into the atmosphere approximately 95% will be NO with about 5% NO2. Trace amounts of other forms of nitrogen oxides are also released from combustion processes, such as nitrous oxide (N2O) (Sun & Jacobs, 2010). Furthermore, in the presence of sunlight and oxidation compounds, nitric oxide combines with oxygen to form NO2, which can create a brown haze reducing visibility and resulting in acid rain (Hill, 2010). Finally, NOx can influence climate change emissions through human activities such as agriculture, fossil fuel combustion, wastewater management and industrial processes, and plays a much larger role in exacerbating climate change than carbon dioxide.

3.2 Sulfur Dioxide (SO 2 )


A colourless, irritating and reactive gas with a pungent odour, SO2 is produced naturally in volcanoes, geothermal activity

and bushfires. Erupting volcanoes are a major but periodic source of SO2, which can impact the atmosphere through the long-term heating of the Earth’s climate. Fossil fuel combustion accounts for the majority of the world’s anthropogenic sulfur

dioxide emissions. Various industrial activities such as petroleum processing, base metal smelter operations and wood

processing produce significant amounts of SO2. People living in the vicinity of these industries may be exposed to sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere. SO2 may also be produced naturally from the decay of vegetation on land and marshlands and

in the ocean. Sulfur is present as a contaminant in fossil fuels including the coal that is burnt in power stations. Generally,

Australian fuels including oil and coal are low in sulfur relative to global levels (World Health Organisation, 2006). During combustion the sulfur reacts with oxygen to form oxides (principally sulfur dioxide), which are released with the flue gases.

In addition, after being released the highly reactive sulfur dioxide tends to form acid gases and sulfate aerosols, which when

combined with water can create acid rain (WHO, 2006).

3.3 Particulate Matter (PM)

Particulate matter (PM) is a term used to describe airborne particles existing in the atmosphere. These particles, including all organic and inorganic compounds, can range in size from microscopic to visible. They occur from either natural activities such as erosion, evaporative sea salt, forest fires or anthropogenic processes such as combustion, manufacturing activities or automobile exhaust. The terminology commonly refers to particulate matter as PMx, where ‘x’ denotes the particle

diameter in microns (1 millionth of a metre). PM10 indicates all particulate matter of diameter 10 microns or less. Particulate matter can originate from a wide variety of sources, which can differ from one location to another depending on the problems

of industry and dominant land use. Some natural sources of particulates are bushfires, oceans (sea salt particles), pollens

and windblown dust. Various sources result from human activities including fuel combustion, vehicle engines, and dust from stockpiles and land clearing (WHO, 2006). In most urban areas PM exposure would be predominantly from motor vehicle emissions, while in rural areas, agricultural operations can generate airborne particulate matter, especially during the dry seasons (Hill, 2010). During the combustion process, coal is burnt for the production of electricity which results in the emission of residual ash. Some of the ash becomes entrained in the hot combustion gases and is referred to as fly ash. The combustion emissions, a mixture of gaseous, liquid and solid matter, are sent to the fabric filters to minimise the particulate emissions before the combustion gases are released into the atmosphere. The environmental fate of PM depends on the way the particle is formed (Meyer, 1998). Particulate matter can be formed when combustion material has been condensed in the atmosphere (WHO, 2006). Gases in the atmosphere can also react with combustion products to form particulate matter, which are removed from the atmosphere by rain (WHO, 2006).

4 Human Health Impacts on Air Pollution

The effects of ambient air pollution on human health is well-documented with the World Health Organisation citing it as the cause of 3.7 million deaths in 2012, with 80% related to ischemic heart disease and strokes, 14% to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 6% to lung cancer (World Health Organisation, 2014). Even low concentrations of air pollution can have adverse health effects such as allergies and throat irritations, and social and physiological stresses (Hansen et al., 2009). Although inhalation is the pathway through which air pollution enters the body, cardiovascular illnesses are more


commonly associated with morbidity and mortality than respiratory illnesses (Langrish et al., 2012). Pollutants affect the body in various ways including pulmonary irritation, suppression of the immune system and the disruption of the autonomic nervous system (Peel et al., 2013). Research has shown that those with weakened immune systems such as children, the elderly and those born with pre-existing conditions are at a greater risk of suffering from the effects of air pollution (O’Neill et al., 2011). Air pollution can cause chronic health problems which are associated with long-term exposure at lower concentrations of the pollutant in the ambient air, and acute health problems which occur due to short-term exposure to higher concentrations of specific types of air pollutants. Epidemiological studies have shown that microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the atmosphere, the sum of which is called particulate matter (PM), especially those that are 2.5µm or smaller (PM2.5) (Robinson, 2015), have the greatest association with morbidity and mortality of any type of air pollution due to their small size and ability to penetrate deeper into the lungs and blood (Langrish et al., 2012).

For the majority of the population, exposure to air pollution can be traced back to particulate matter derived from the combustion-based sources such as industry and traffic (Langrish et al., 2012). However, other sources of air pollution in Australia include home heating sources and bushfires (Hansen et al., 2009). The air pollutants that have the most adverse effects on human health can be either primary pollutants, which are emitted directly from the pollution source, or secondary pollutants, which are created when primary pollutants interact in the atmosphere. Nitric oxides released from a point source of pollution quickly react with ozone to produce nitrogen dioxide, which in high and low concentration can have negative acute and chronic respiratory effects (Kampa & Castanas, 2008). Nitrogen oxides are also involved in the production of ground level ozone which is another air pollutant shown to have negative impacts on respiratory health (Kan et al., 2011). Similarly, the primary pollutant sulfur dioxide and its derivative secondary pollutants sulfuric acid and sulphates are respiratory irritants that can exacerbate pre-existing respiratory illnesses. The effects of both sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen at the PM10 to PM2.5 have also been proven to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, acute coronary syndrome and acute myocardial infarctions (Franklin et al., 2015). This suggests that sudden increases in atmospheric sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen can exacerbate pre-existing conditions and increase the risks of mortality in the population (Franklin et al., 2015).

The combustion of fossil fuels is related to the increase of air pollution and the acceleration of climate change and will therefore also affect the epidemiology of the health effects of air pollution (Hansen et al., 2009). There is already strong evidence that climate change is affecting human health through the increase of heatwaves and other extreme weather conditions which act as stressors and raise mortality rates (Kan et al., 2011). The accumulation of air pollutants within an areas is associated with meteorological factors such as humidity, precipitation, temperature and wind speed (Hansen et al., 2009; Sujaritpong et al., 2014). Drier conditions leads to increases in particulate matter, higher temperatures are related to increases in the production of ozone and heatwaves, all of which have been linked to the onset of cardiovascular and respiratory disease. A study of air pollution in Sydney has shown that for every one degree increase in temperature, there is a daily mortality increase of 0.9%, and when temperature rise to over 32 degree, this increases to 7.3% (Hansen et al., 2009). Therefore, local and regional climatic conditions and how these will be affected by climate change, will have to be considered when evaluating air pollutions future impacts on human health (Peel et al., 2013).



Management Strategies for Air Pollution

The management of air pollution takes place on different scales and reaches from a local to an international level. The following sections points out management options as well as the different spatial- and temporal-scale levels in Australia.

5.1 Air Quality Management Strategy

The range of contributing air pollutants makes air quality a complex problem, which can only be solved through different measures (Queensland Government, 2013). There are three main techniques for reducing air pollution (Nesaratnam & Taherzadeh, 2014) such as (1) modification of processes to decrease emissions, (2) collection of particulate materials, and (3) absorption of toxic gases. Bachmann (2007) established an air quality management theory which follows five steps to reduce air pollution. He also states that for air quality management theory to be successful, goals need to be established, emission reductions determined, programs developed, and strategies implemented, enforced and evaluated (Figure 1).

strategies implemented, enforced and evaluated (Figure 1). Figure 1: Air quality management theory (Bachmann, 2007

Figure 1: Air quality management theory (Bachmann, 2007 adapted by HIlkmann, 2015).

5.2 Managing Air Pollution on Different Scales

The management of air pollution can be divided into different spatial- and temporal-scales from a global level to a regional level. On the larger scale, regulations with standards and maximum values are usually set whereas on the smaller scales, plans or planning schemes arrange concrete aims.


5.2.1 International Management of Air Pollution

The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution in 1979 has been the foundation for Australia’s air quality management since it was first introduced. This convention connects divergent political systems as well as stabilising political changes and is the only legally binding instrument for air quality management at the international level. It aims for a global system of air pollution management as well as a closer cooperation between politics and research. This convention was developed because of the sulfur dioxide emitted in central Europe on lakes in Sweden and Norway (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation and Nuclear Safety, 2013). The involved states made arrangements on the recognition of transboundary air pollution and its impacts on both the environment and on the community in addition to the obligation of improving emissions, the implementation of a European evaluation system and the establishment of committees for further development and the implementation of the convention (UNECE, 1979). Furthermore, the Göteborg Protocol in 1999 with an update in 2012 is the most recent air management protocol. The update in 2012 sets new standards and emission levels for 2020. This Protocol focuses on the management of SO2, NOx, and volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ammonia (NH3). However, it has been criticised because the reduction of emissions is not enough and the differences between the signatories are still too high (DNR, 2012).

5.2.2 National Management of Air Pollution

The national level mainly provides overall goals, but also standards and maximum values for industry and traffic. The most important strategy for Australian air quality management is the NEPM 1998, which sets standards for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, particles and lead, but also mandatory monitoring and reporting requirements (Department of the Environment, 2015). Furthermore, the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) set standards for new vehicles concerning their emissions and over the last 20 years has led to reductions of lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particles. Another government publication the ‘Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000’ sets the national quality standards for a wide range of fuel quality properties aimed at reducing emissions and improving engine performance (Queensland Government, 2013). Australia also wants to establish a National Clean Air Agreement by 2016 that will address the challenges in terms of air pollution as well as to analyse health impacts and improve ambient air quality nationwide through new regulations (Department of the Environment, 2015). This new agreement is necessary, because the current system of the NEPM is now insufficient and ineffective, because it has failed to keep pace with international standards. For example, there are still no regulations on PM2.5, although its harmful effects are well known and most vulnerable groups are not adequately protected.

5.2.3 State Management of Air Pollution

The government on the state level implements legislation, statutory instruments, programmes and policies in their own jurisdiction to meet the national standards (Department of the Environment, 2015). In Queensland the Environmental

Protection Act 1994 and the Environmental Protection Regulations 2008 establish a list of industrial activities which are

environmentally-relevant and have to have a current development approval or environmental authority. The aim of this


protection is to prevent or minimise all environmental pollution. Therefore, individuals carrying out environmentally-relevant activities have to take all reasonable and practicable steps to make sure that best practices in environmental management are used. These conditions of approval can include limiting emissions of air pollutants or monitoring emissions of ambient air quality. Furthermore the Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008 established long-term objectives for different pollutants, ozone and air toxics (Queensland Government, 2013).

5.2.4 Regional Management of Air Pollution

On the regional level different planning arrangements and local planning schemes make major contributions to air-quality management. They establish the location and nature of major infrastructure projects or set up goals and processes to guide development decisions at regional, suburban or local scales (Queensland Government, 2013).

6 Case Study: Air Pollution Threats in Gladstone

This case study examines the specific air pollution threats in Gladstone. Also, a simple analysis on the health and environmental impacts that are commonly found in Gladstone in relation to air pollution have been conducted. Lastly, the management measures of the different levels of Australian Governments related to these Gladstone air pollutants were also studied.

6.1 Major Gladstone Industries

There are many industries that add to the increase of air pollutants within Gladstone but the ones that has the most significant contribution include:

Boyne Smelters Limited (aluminium smelting operation) (EPA 2008a);

NRG Gladstone Power Station (black-coal fired electricity generation) (EPA 2008b);

Queensland Alumina Limited; and

Rio Tinto Yarwun (alumina refining); and

Cement Australia (cement clinker production) (EPA 2008c).

However, due to word constraints, only the NRG Gladstone Power Station will be discussed. The Gladstone Power Station is the largest coal-fired power station in Queensland and is situated just outside Gladstone on the central Queensland coast (NRG, 2008). As a major industrial source of NOx in the Gladstone region, NRG’s emissions are minimised at ground level because they are released from tall chimneys and produce approximately 43,000 tonnes of NOx per year (NRG, 2008). NRG is also a major emitter of sulfur dioxide (SOx) due to the large quantities of sulfur containing coal that is burned to generate electricity. NRG’s contribution to the ground level concentrations are minor as the SO2 emissions are emitted and dispersed above the inversion layer, with a total of 35,000 tonnes of SO2 emitted annually (NRG, 2008). According to the National Pollutant Inventory database for the 2008/2009 period, NRG produces only around 8% of the total particulate


matter (PM10) released in the Gladstone region (NRG, 2008), and as such, the Gladstone Power Station contribution to local PM10 levels is lower than normal guideline values on both a daily and annual basis. This contribution is also within cut-off levels proposed by the National Environment Protection Council as per the standards of the NEPM and the QLD Environmental Protection Agency’s EPP (NRG, 2008). Finally, the graph and table below (Table 1 and Figure 3) shows the NOx, SO2 and PM10 emissions for the five Gladstone industries mentioned above. As can be seen, the NRG Gladstone Power Plant produces significantly more air pollution emissions while Rio Tinto Yarwun produces the lowest. It can therefore be inferred from this that NRG plays a significant role in the increase of the production of air pollutants in the Gladstone region. However, this problem can be easily mitigated through an effective, efficient and appropriate management strategy, which will be mentioned in the Section 6.3.

Table 1: Total NOx, SO2 and Particulate Matter Emissions (Tonnes per Year) 2008/2009 (Source: CS NRG, 2008)




Queensland Alumina Limited

Rio Tinto Yarwun

Cement Australia

























13815.561 78137.233 12820.512 2417.668 3000.569 Figure 3: Graph Explaining the Total NO x , SO 2

Figure 3: Graph Explaining the Total NOx, SO2 and Particulate Matter Emissions 2008/2009 (Source: NRG, 2008).

6.2 Industrial Pollution and Health in Gladstone

The findings from the CHAG (2009) report indicate that no air pollutants were found in the atmosphere at levels that exceeded national standards or pose an unacceptable risk to human health. Levels of nitric oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide were all well under the health-based standards (Queensland Health, 2010) but concentrations of PM2.5 exceeded NEPM annual average standards of 8 µg/m 3 at four of six monitoring sites. However, these averages are not representative of a typical day as when the daily concentrations are viewed alongside meteorological data it can be seen that large spikes in recorded PM2.5 concentrations are outliers amongst normally low concentration levels and that these spikes coincide with bushfires and dust storms in the Gladstone area (Queensland Health, 2010). The authors also note that reducing PM2.5 levels to a daily average of 2-5 µg/m 3 would have minimal impact on reducing adverse health effects (Queensland Health, 2010). However, PM is the air pollutant that causes the most substantial impact on human health (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011) and Fisher et al. (2007) reported that up to 85% of health care spending from air pollution related


illnesses is accounted for by long term exposure to PM. This suggests that the acute effects of PM could be more damaging than previously thought.

According to the Queensland Health community health survey (2009), the population of Gladstone is not significantly different from the wider Australian population in a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular illnesses. However, the prevalence of asthma in adults and children was shown to be significantly different within the Gladstone population, 12.0% compared to 9.8% for Queensland and 10.5% for Australia (Queensland Health, 2009), despite ambient air quality being similar to other urban areas. Additionally, those affected by asthma took twice as much medication for their symptoms and visited a doctor twice as much as the average Australian (Queensland Health, 2009) While the report suggests that the causes of asthma are not well understood other studies have noted the influence of air pollution in the exacerbation of its symptoms (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011). Several studies have found an association between air pollutants and asthma in childhood and suggest that nitrogen oxides, particulates, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide damage airways through oxidative stress and inflammation (Ferrante et al., 2014). Research from CHAG assessed the possibility of pollutant mixing as a source of lung and airway irritation and a cause of the higher than average incidences of asthma found in the Gladstone area. Again, the results showed that at the recorded concentrations levels, the combination or air pollutants would not pose a significant public health risk (Queensland Health, 2009). A factor cited for the increased prevalence of asthma in Gladstone is the significantly higher rates of smoking amongst the population (Queensland Health, 2009) however the prevalence rates for asthma has not been shown to be significantly different for smokers and non-smokers suggesting other contributory factors (Polosa & Thomson, 2013). While no strong conclusions can be drawn from the research, it does suggest that morbidity for asthma could be higher in industrial cities and children exposed to concentration levels deemed safe could be at a greater risk to develop acute respiratory illnesses.

While the final health report from CHAG (2010) focused on the physiological risks, the Community Health Survey indicated that air pollution could potentially be impacting on psychological health. The survey found that 75.7% of respondents expressed concern over the health impacts of industry, especially air pollution (Queensland Health, 2009). Of these, over 25% indicated that they were highly or extremely concerned as well as almost 50% who agreed or strongly agreed that while they had concerns, there was nothing they could do to control the risks to their health (Queensland Health, 2009). The survey also found that almost half the respondents regularly experienced odours from industrial sites, 4.3% of these reported as extremely annoying. Capelli et al. (2012) note that aside from the annoyance, the perception of industrial odours, more associated with people's fear of the possible health effects, is psychological more damaging than the physical effects of exposure. Several studies have suggested that higher pollutant concentrations can effect emotional states and general wellbeing (Bullinger, 1989), with exposure to higher concentrations of ozone having a significant correlation with symptoms of anxiety (Evans et al., 1988). Therefore, it could also be argued that the perception of pollutants could have additional adverse effects on emotions and wellbeing and act as a stressor when an industrial odour is perceived.

Government policies aimed at limiting emissions from Gladstone’s industries due to climate change will also need to deal with the health issues that the predicted temperature rise and reduction in air quality could bring (Sujaritpong et al., 2014). The two pollutants that are predicted to have the most negative effects on human health due to climate change are Ozone, through rising temperatures interacting with nitric oxides and VOCs, and increases in PM due to more frequent and intense


bushfires and dust storms (Spickett et al., 2011). As Gladstone is situated in a sub-tropical region that already has high summer temperatures, any additional increases will also bring an increase in morbidity levels (Kan et al., 2012). Evidence suggests that the health of the elderly and children will be the most affected by climate change, current estimates states that those 60 and over account for 81%, and those under five 3%, of all outdoor air pollution deaths (Spickett et al., 2011). Hanna and Spickett (2011) suggest that policies regarding health and climate change need to address the modelling and forecasting of air pollutants levels, reductions in emissions, increased monitoring of pollutants levels and global cooperation in monitoring adverse health effects from air pollution.

6.3 Pollution Management in Gladstone

Because air pollution has been a well-known problem in Gladstone state and local government sponsored projects to research on links between air pollution and health (Higginbotham et al. 2010). The CHAG project (2011) aimed to appraise the emission impacts on air quality, the risks of air pollution to human health, negative health outcomes, but also developing approaches to decrease the emissions and identifying needs to health monitoring or evaluation.

All in all there are three key issues on air quality management (DERM, 2011):

Community concerns;

Deal with existing sources; and

Future industrial development.

For the community concerns the community first was consulted although the community does not expect the air quality to be compromised (DERM, 2011). Furthermore groups and forums have been established with different stakeholders from the private sector and the public. Therefore, a working relationship needs to be developed between different stakeholders that focuses on air pollution management. Also, an air quality monitoring project has been developed to determine concentrations, provide air quality data and inform the public, assess, evaluate and determine the effectiveness of the programmes and to validate air dispersion models. This can be achieved through a further cooperation between the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) focussing on ambient air monitoring and communicating with industries in the region to engage with the project (DERM, 2011).

The second step of dealing and managing existing sources showed that air pollution levels in Gladstone are within the current health-based standards, but it presents the ongoing risks to air quality, therefore it needs to be managed. This can be done through a cooperation of industry, government and community, which need to seek opportunities for a reduction in the amount of discharged contaminants. Therefore emission limits as well as monitoring and an appropriate reporting should be implemented. The emissions are regulated through the DERM’s Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008 and the Environmental Protection Act 1994. Therefore, an integrated approach for air regulations should be implemented with different amendments on the pollutants. A further focus on sulfur dioxide is also required because under a worst case scenario, standardised levels will be exceeded, therefore the current limits need to be reviewed. Another way to achieve this is the maintenance and operation of plant and equipment, because of its effects on contaminant releases.


Recommendations to solve this include making sure that plants and equipment are consistent and meet requirements so that they avoid environmental harm through control devices, standby systems or operational performance. Lastly, incident management in terms of existing sources, which focusses on ensuring that the community is safe or, at the very least, harmful events are minimized. Therefore risk assessments have to be undertaken, specific response procedures need to communicate incidents, investigate them and record the data, which then needs to be tested and reviewed. Also, the significant pollutants need to be provided with adequate reporting and communication of incidents as well as a modification of the development approvals with an inclusion of incident response conditions (DERM, 2011).

The last step is the coordination of future industries in Gladstone and findings of future locations for industrial and urban development. This is necessary because Gladstone is still a growing economic centre through expansions of existing industries. Therefore, the regional emissions inventory, the purpose of which is to provide input data for the regional air quality model, needs to be amended as it only focusses on the main stacks of the emitting industries. To improve this, a comprehensive inventory needs to be maintained of all new industries, as well as existing industries providing emissions profiles and environmentally relevant activity to keep it up-to-date. Low emission technologies are not a policy requirement currently, but there is the need for best practice environmental management, because currently environmental impacts statements require the assessment of alternatives, although they rarely lead to proposed technologies, with less harm for the environment (DERM, 2011). Therefore, alternative technologies and an identification of contaminant emission should be implemented. Effective land-use planning can also lead to a better air quality, which can be easily be achieved through a separation of heavy industries and residential or other areas. However, buffer zones and distances are not an alternative to lower emissions, they can only lead to less effects on special zones. To achieve a reduction in emissions, new industrial development needs to be evaluated including the potential for cumulative impacts on air quality and priorities given to areas, which avoid cumulative impacts and degradations of air quality (DERM, 2011).

Furthermore a project plan focusing on population health risk was developed, with the following main tasks: developing an air emission profile and a regional air quality model, transacting a monitoring program, assessing community health and health risk, developing an approach to manage air pollution and reviewing the regional air quality management (DERM, 2011; DEHP, 2014). Through the monitoring program which was developed in the project, plans for the stations to measure the emissions have been developed in the Gladstone area. These stations provide continuous and up-to-date data about key pollutants and their concentrations to examine the influence on air quality, and evaluate and inform public about dangerous amount (Table 2).

Table 2: Emissions in Gladstone on 17.10.15 (DEHP, 2015).


Carbon Monoxide

Nitrogen Dioxide


Sulfur Dioxide






















South Gladstone









Boyne Island









Very Good




Very Poor

No Data

Another approach implemented in the region is the industrial ecology strategy, which is supported by a few governments in Australia and can be found in a few cities. The industrial region Kwinana started this strategy and now has a huge supply chain between the different firms and uses opportunities for waste exchange and energy cascading (DEPM, 2011). The Queensland government has looked for opportunities to develop industrial synergies to reduce waste and energy usage for heavy industries in Gladston. Five significant synergy activities were found: alternative fuels, water reuse, waste separation use, fly ash and waste recovery. However, potential for new developments was limited because of scale and planning, especially since the city size is too small and lacks a critical mass of firms and soft infrastructure necessary to support downstream processing industries. In addition, export to Asia limited the chances, because of a missing connection to the port network system of Australia and therefore transport of waste by-products is too expensive. Furthermore, there is a lack of human and social capital networks to support the development of industrial ecology as well as a not conductive regulatory environment (Roberts, 2014).



Air pollution is a major issue worldwide, which affects the environment and human health. Therefore it is necessary to ensure an ambient air quality, which can be achieved through management strategies in order to follow international and national standards and assure human health is not affected. Furthermore, Gladstone’s industrial economy will lead to a further research on air quality in order to measure and evaluate air pollution levels. This is why, through the Clean and Healthy Air Gladstone, different changes and recommendations should be suggested and implemented in order to ensure an even better air quality.

Reference List

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