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An Australian war on pollution is making it more expensive to travel and driving has created a perfect storm for the country’s air quality woes.
Air pollution has already led to a number of fatalities in the country and air quality advisories have been issued for parts of Victoria and New South Wales, while pollution in Canberra and Adelaide has prompted protests in some cities.
The latest warning from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (ABC) said that levels of PM10, which are tiny particles made up of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, had risen sharply in some parts of the country, with many residents now suffering from the symptoms of breathing in toxic fumes.
“We’ve been hearing for a number years now that this is one of the worst pollution regions in the world, with very, very high levels of pollution, so there’s a lot of concern around this area,” ABC meteorologist Mark McGeown told ABC News Breakfast on Monday.
“So what we’re seeing here is, with the high levels, particularly in some of the western parts of Australia, you’ve got the high-level of pollution coming from these heavy industry areas and it’s getting into those areas of the city and people are starting to experience a lot more of these symptoms.”
According to the ABC, the peak pollution areas in Australia are: “in western Australia” and “in Sydney, the Sydney CBD area” where levels of air pollution are the highest.
“In the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, you have the suburbs of Bondi Beach, you also have the suburb of North Beach, and so there are a lot lots of high pollution areas, in terms of the amount of pollution.”
Australia’s national air quality index, a measure of air quality that includes PM10s, was 0.29 on Sunday, down from the previous record set on September 20, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The index also showed a steady rise in pollution levels in the past week, which reached a record high of 0.4 in Sydney, a rise of more than 400 per cent in Canberra, and a peak of 0 at Bondi beach in Melbourne.
The Australian Bureau, the countrys chief air pollution watchdog, warned on Monday that the increase in pollution in some areas was making it harder to breathe.
“The high level of pollution is causing people to feel quite sick,” Dr Peter Walker said.
“People are feeling very, quite sick, and we’re doing our best to provide the most appropriate advice as we can, to try and minimise the impact on those who are feeling ill.”
A number of the biggest cities in Australia have also seen significant increases in PM10 levels.
A number in Sydney and Melbourne are also experiencing a rise in PM25, which is the highest concentration of nitrogen oxide particles, which can lead to respiratory problems.
The ABC reports that the PM10 index was 0 for all of Sydney and 0.5 for all Melbourne.
Australia’s PM10 limits were set in the 1980s, meaning the levels in those cities were set by the previous governments, and were not designed to prevent the pollution from reaching levels that would cause health problems.
“I don’t think that we have achieved the level of protection that we need for people to be able to live and enjoy a quality of life that they can be proud of,” Senator Walker told the ABC.
“And if we do not improve the level, if we continue to go down this path of increasing levels, we’ll be back in a situation where we will see more and more of the world becoming like Australia.”
The ACT Government is currently considering legislation to make it more difficult for businesses to use public transport, while Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Monday she was concerned that “it’s going to become more difficult to get people to work”.