Understanding dust and particle pollution

Queensland’s air quality monitoring network measures the quality of the air in the environment including airborne particles such as dust and particle pollution.

Watch the video to learn more about:

  • Queensland’s air quality monitoring network
  • how weather influences air quality
  • pollution events.

Duration 00:05:02 |

Statewide air quality monitoring network

Queensland’s air quality monitoring network measures the quality of the air in the environment.

The network includes more than 40 monitoring stations across the state operated by the Queensland Government and industry partners.

Air quality is measured 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and data is published online and updated hourly on the Queensland Government’s live air data website <apps.des.qld.gov.au/air-quality>

Why air quality is measured

Clean air plays an important role in protecting our health, way of life and natural environment.

Air quality can be affected by a range of pollutants from different sources, as well as weather conditions.

Poor air quality can have potentially harmful effects on human health, especially the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

How air quality is measured

National air quality standards set strict guidelines about acceptable levels of air pollutants.

A key indicator for air quality is particulate matter, which is measured in two different sizes.

PM2.5 are fine particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter—that’s 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

These particles are mainly caused by combustion processes.

Fine particles pose a greater health risk because they can reach deeper into the respiratory system and lungs.

PM10 particles are coarse particles measuring less than 10 micrometres in diameter.

These particles are caused by both combustion processes and non-combustion processes.

How weather influences air quality

Dust is a common air pollutant that can impact air quality.

Because dust particles are larger, they pose more of a nuisance rather than the health concern associated with fine particles.

Dry conditions increase the likelihood of airborne dust and dust storms with strong winds carrying soil across long distances.

Bushfires can also contribute to increased airborne particle levels with smoke travelling hundreds of kilometres and covering large areas.

Colder weather can also influence air quality.

When the Earth’s surface cools quickly, it causes the air at ground level to be colder than the air higher in the atmosphere.

This warm air prevents pollutants from dispersing into the atmosphere, causing a build-up that results in a low-lying horizonal haze.

Pollution event

A pollution event happens when the concentration of pollutants in the air exceeds acceptable standards.

This simulation shows how weather conditions can lead to a pollution event affecting air quality.

Day 1

High traffic levels and minimal wind movement over the Brisbane CBD causing a build-up of pollutants.

A sea breeze moves the air parcel inland and the pollutants are trapped in the valleys and remain there overnight.

Day 2.

Airflow returns the contaminated air parcel back to the Brisbane CBD and the same sources raise the pollutant levels again.

The sea breeze recirculates the air parcel, with a higher concentration of pollutants, back to the inland valleys for a second time.

The air parcel returns to the CBD the following day.

Day 3.

Stronger winds finally disperse the contaminated air parcel by taking it out to sea where it is diluted with clean air and the pollutant levels are reduced.

Air quality monitoring network expansion

During the 2019 bushfire season thousands of Queenslanders, especially those with respiratory conditions like asthma, relied on real-time information provided by the air quality monitoring network to take appropriate health action.

The Queensland Government is investing $4.7 million to upgrade and expand the air quality monitoring network to help keep Queensland communities safe and healthy.

This includes more PM2.5 monitoring stations to help keep people informed about smoke levels in their local area.

For more information about air quality monitoring or to access live air data, check the website apps.des.qld.gov.au/air-quality/