Sydneysiders don dust masks as bushfires make the city a global air pollution hot spot 

SYDNEY, Nov 19 2019 - Sydneysiders continue to choke on hazardous air pollution with catastrophic bushfire smoke blanketing large parts of NSW and making Sydney the 11th most polluted city in the world.

Today Greenpeace volunteers in the Sydney CBD handed out dust masks as air pollution levels soared to levels 10-25 times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines, with authorities warning residents to remain indoors and avoid strenuous physical activity.

“Today Sydney is experiencing some of the worst air pollution in the world, but some parts of NSW like the Hunter Valley have exceeded health standards more than 100 times each year,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Campaigner Jonathan Moylan said.

“Air pollution already causes more premature deaths than the national road toll in Australia, and these risks are being exacerbated by unprecedented weather conditions.

“The New South Wales Government needs to finalise the clean air strategy it began three years ago. Reducing air pollution all year around will also help minimise the risks to the most vulnerable populations during extreme weather events.”

The NSW Government prepared a Clean Air for NSW consultation paper in 2016 in order to reduce air pollution. However, more than three years later the strategy remains unfinished.

Air quality has been described as “hazardous” across large parts of NSW with the worst pollution readings in the state recorded at Rouse Hill, where pollution levels are almost 30 times greater than World Health Organisation guidelines.

“Fine smoke particles are known to affect the human breathing system,” the NSW Health Department’s bushfire smoke fact sheet warns. 

“The smaller or finer the particles, the deeper they go into the lungs. These particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis. The smoke particles can also aggravate existing lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.”

There are currently more than 50 bushfires burning across New South Wales. Six people have died and more than 500 homes have been destroyed so far this bushfire season.

While bushfire smoke has contributed to high particulate pollution, ground-level ozone also exceeded national guidelines across Western Sydney late yesterday afternoon. Ground-level ozone forms from the reaction of industrial pollution from factories and power stations under high temperature and sunlight.



Download video and vox pops of Sydneysiders wearing dust masks in the CBD Please refresh, the gallery is being updated


Greenpeace Australia Pacific Communications Campaigner, Martin Zavan

0424 295 422

[email protected]