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Queensland Government, Department of Environment and Science
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|6||Cannon Hill, Queensland|
|7||Flinders View, Queensland|
|10||Boyne Island, Queensland|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 13 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Townsville air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Monday, Mar 27|
Good 21 US AQI
|Tuesday, Mar 28|
Good 19 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 29|
Good 15 US AQI
Good 13 US AQI
|Friday, Mar 31|
Good 16 US AQI
|Saturday, Apr 1|
Good 17 US AQI
|Sunday, Apr 2|
Good 17 US AQI
|Monday, Apr 3|
Good 17 US AQI
|Tuesday, Apr 4|
Good 17 US AQI
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Townsville, the largest urban centre in Australia northwards of the Sunshine coast, lies on the northeast coast of Queensland state, approximately 340 kilometres south of Cairns. Townsville faces Australia’s offshore Magnetic Island, and is situated adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, with a dry tropical climate. Similarly to the majority of Australia, Townsville experiences relatively healthy air quality most of the year round, in comparison to global locations – but the city is also vulnerable to experience occasional extreme air pollution events, most often caused by natural events such as dust storms and wildfires. The Queensland government is responsible for monitoring the state’s air quality, including Townsville, and it focuses on monitoring the following key pollutants: particulate matter (including PM2.5, PM10, and total suspended particles (TSP)), visibility, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulphur dioxide (SO2).1
Of these, the main air pollutant of concern in Queensland is particulate matter (PM). PM pollution describes microscopic airborne particles, less than 2.5 or 10 microns in diameter, abbreviated as PM2.5 or PM10 respectively. These pollutants are of particular concern within Queensland for two reasons: firstly, these pollutants are particularly hazardous to human health, since their miniscule size enables them to penetrate deep into the human system once inhaled, even entering the bloodstream in the case of PM2.5. This then causes a wide range of health effects. Secondly, PM also represents the pollutants which most frequently exceed Australia’s national air quality standards, known as the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (Air NEPM). The NEPM standards are designed to limit air pollution at a level to minimise health impacts to Australians, based on scientific evidence; therefore, frequent exceedances represent cause for concern.
Live air quality information can be viewed within the Townsville air quality map at the top of this page, along with real-time wildfire updates. These can be viewed on-the-go using the IQAir AirVisual air pollution app, along with a 7-day Townsville air quality forecast.
Within IQAir’s 2019 World Air Quality Report, Townsville ranked as Queensland’s 4th cleanest city for PM2.5 pollution, averaging an annual concentration of 6.5 μg/m3. This average achieves Australia’s annual air quality standard for PM2.5 of 8 μg/m3, as well as the World Health Organisation’s slightly less strict annual PM2.5 target, of 10 μg/m3. Townsville’s air quality was beaten only by the Queensland towns of Moranbah (4.1 μg/m3), Charters Towers (5.9 μg/m3) and the city of Mount Isa (6.3 μg/m3). For broader Australian context, Townsville averaged the same asMelbourne’s air quality for PM2.5 during 2019 (6.5 μg/m3), but less than Brisbane (8.1 μg/m3) and less than half ofCanberra’s air pollution during 2019 (15 μg/m3).2
While Townsville experiences a relatively low level of air pollution most of the time, even very low concentrations of air pollutants can have some health effects. The World Health Organisation emphasises how there is no known “safe” limit below which air pollution has been shown to have no negative health impacts.3 Exposure to air pollution can result in both short- and long-term effects on human health. Short-term impacts can include feeling irritation in eyes, nose and throat, while long-term effects of exposure to air pollution can include an increased risk of developing respiratory or cardiovascular disease. These can include the collective group of lung conditions known as chronic pulmonary obstructive disorders (COPD; encompassing bronchitis and emphysema), lung cancer, as well as higher risk of stroke, and premature mortality.
The main contributors to Townsville air pollution are emissions from motor vehicles and industrial activities, in addition to natural sources such as wildfires and dust storms. Particle pollution in particular is most significantly affected by contributions from dust storms, and smoke from bushfires, agricultural burning and hazard reduction burning, within Queensland state.4
Like the rest of Australia, Townsville is vulnerable to experiencing fires to some extent on an annual basis; either directly, by blazes reaching Townsville itself, or indirectly, by experiencing windblown smoke from nearby fires.Australia fires are most often started naturally, for example through a lightning strike, although they can also be started by human intervention, either accidentally (such as through an accidental spark), or deliberately, through planned burning or arson. Different parts of Australia are most vulnerable to fire risk at different parts of the year, depending on seasonal weather changes. Much of Queensland’s east coast, including Townsville, is most at risk of fire during the spring, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meterorology.5 Real-time fire information can be followed within the Townsville air quality map at the top of this page.
Queensland Government is responsible to monitorQueensland’s air quality at key sites across the state, in order to try to ensure that air quality meets Australia’s Air NEPM standards, and take remedial actions where necessary. Australia’s air quality standards are among the strictest in the world for particulate matter pollution: the Australian annual target for PM2.5 is a concentration below 8 μg/m3, which is lower than both the WHO’s annual target (10 μg/m3), the United States’ annual target of 12 μg/m3, and the European Union’s target of 25 μg/m3. Queensland government has established 4 air quality monitors around Townsville, at the sites of North Ward, Coastguard, Environment Park, and Lennon Drive.1
The Queensland Government follows Australia’s broader Air Quality Index (AQI) system to communicate Townsville air quality readings to the public in an easy-to-understand way. The Townsville air quality index expresses different pollutant levels as a percentage of that pollutant’s respective NEPM standard; therefore, a Townsville AQI of 100 represents a pollutant level equivalent to its NEPM standard, and an AQI of 300 would represent an exceedance threefold. At sites where multiple pollutants are monitored, whichever pollutant has the highest AQI number will dictate that location’s overall AQI. The Queensland AQI uses a color-coded scale to quickly communicate varying levels of health hazard, with 0-33 representing “Very good” air quality (blue), up to 150+ representing “Very poor” air quality (deep red).6 In this way, the Queensland government strives to simplify air quality data into actionable health advisories, so Queenslanders and those in Townsville easily understand how to respond to air quality events.
+ Article resources
 Queensland Government. “Live Air Data”. Queensland Government Department of Environment & Science (DES) website, n.d.
 IQAir. “2019 World Air Quality Report”. IQAir website, March 18, 2020.
 World Health Organisation (WHO). “Ambient (outdoor) air pollution.” WHO website, May 2, 2018.
 Queensland Government. “Particulate concentrations”. Queensland Government State of the Environment website, February 12, 2020.
 Australia Government Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). “Bushfire weather”. Australian Government BOM website, n.d.
 Queensland Government. “Air Quality Index”. Queensland government website, August 12, 2020.
Data sources 1