Monitoring air quality across Tasmania

​IQAir recently published their 5th Annual World Air Quality Report which details the world's most polluted countries, territories, and regions in 2022.

For this year's report, data from more than 30,000 air quality monitoring stations across 7,323 locations in 131 countries, territories, and regions was analysed by IQAir's air quality scientists.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has 35 established air stations in areas of Tasmania which are listed in IQAir's data.  Interestingly, Tasmania has a higher proportion of air stations compared to other Australian States providing a broader distribution of data.

The data from the EPA's established air stations have been supplemented by a program of car-based smoke measurement surveys, where PM2.5 is measured from a vehicle every five seconds and the data are geo-located by GPS, to create spatial maps of the areas of degraded air quality.

The results from the air station data and the surveys, confirmed by observations of the officers conducting the measurements, unequivocally identify wood heater smoke as the source of the elevated winter-time PM2.5 levels.

IQAir's data lists the Tasmanian townships of New Norfolk, Longford and Perth, to regularly experience poor winter-time air quality due to smoke from residential wood heaters. In cold and calm weather, when wood heater use is high, conditions are poor for smoke dispersal, and air quality degrades significantly as a consequence in these towns and elsewhere across Tasmania.

To help combat the issue of wood heater smoke, each winter the EPA runs its annual Burn B​​righter this Winter campaign. This community education program is designed to inform wood heater owners of the best techniques to use when operating their heater so as to reduce smoke emissions and improve air quality in their local environment.

The campaign is in its sixth year in 2023 and specifically targets communities to improve their knowledge about the effective operation of wood heaters, thereby reducing population exposure to air pollutants.

Air stations have also been located on major roads (Clearys Gates, Brooker Highway, 2010-2012; Macquarie St, Hobart CBD, 2011-2012; and currently an experimental sensor-suite 150 metres from the Brooker Highway in New Town) specifically to monitor traffic pollution. Traffic-generated pollution levels were found to be very low, well within national standards.

The carbon monoxide sensor at New Town does however pick up a clear winter-time elevation (but well within standards), as a diurnally varying signal, peaking in the evening hours, which correlates extremely well with woodsmoke PM2.5, and hence is also ascribed to wood heater emissions.

Further information regarding air quality monitoring can be found on the EPA website at Monitoring Air Pollution​​​

Published on: 5/04/2023