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Local Air Quality

Sources of Local Air Pollution I Primary Air Pollutants I Council Action to Improve Air Quality I What You Can Do

Sources of Local Air Pollution

Motor vehicles are the most significant source of the pollutants affecting air quality in the City of Rockdale and the greater Sydney region. Our City's major roads, including the Princes Highway, Forest Road, Rocky Point Road, Stoney Creek Road and the Grand Parade act as a thoroughfare to Wollongong, the Sydney CBD, the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and Port Botany. All along these transport routes, motor vehicles release carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and sulfur dioxide.

Air borne pollutants generated at the nearby Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport also impact on the City's air quality. The primary sources of pollutant emissions at the airport are combustion of aviation fuel, aircraft maintenance and servicing, refuelling operations and associated vehicle traffic.

Industry and commercial premises are another source of air pollution. Although the City of Rockdale does not have heavy large scale industry that generate significant air pollutants, local enterprises such as panel beaters, spray painters, charcoal chicken outlets, dry cleaners and petrol stations generate particulates, hydrocarbons and odours. As these premises are often located in one area they can impact on air quality at a very localised level.

The main sources of air pollution from the City's residential areas include wood heaters, barbecues, lawn mowers and the use of household chemicals.

Air quality monitoring of the M5 East tunnel is undertaken by the RMS. They provide information on air quality data, the type of monitoring being undertaken, set limits and historic and live air quality data.

Primary Air Pollutants

Air pollution adversely affects human health, particularly in vulnerable groups like young children and older people. The following table outlines the main air pollutants, their sources and health impacts.





Health Effects

Carbon monoxide

Colourless, odourless, tasteless gas

Motor vehicles, fuel combustion, industrial and agricultural burning

Decreasing, although Sydney's CBD remains high

Depletes oxygen in blood and body tissue, causing death with prolonged exposure. Lower concentrations may impair higher nervous function and facilitate heart disease


White-brown gases with a characteristic odour

The exposure to sunlight of oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons produces ozone and other pollutants


Affects the lining of the lungs and respiratory tract restricting airways, reducing lung capacity and oxygen uptake. It also causes eye irritation and reduces visibility. People with asthma who exercise between 11am and 4pm can be particularly vulnerable

Nitrogen dioxide

Orange-brown gas, pungent odour

Combustion processes form nitric oxide which is oxidised in the air to nitrogen dioxide (some nitrogen dioxide is also formed in the combustion process)


Attacks bronchial and lung tissues, irritates mucus membranes and can affect those with asthma and bronchitis

Sulfur dioxide

Colourless, pungent, irritating gas

Combustion of sulfur containing fuels and smelting of sulfur bearing mineral ores


Direct irritant of bronchial mucus, conducive to asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Damages leaves and corrodes building and metals


Heavy metal and cumulative poison

Motor vehicles (from leaded petrol). Contained in paints prior to 1970


Affects the central nervous system, renal tissues, blood formation and pressure. Children suffer a deficit of 1 - 3 IQ points for each 10 ug/dL increase in blood


Colourless, volatile, aromatic hydrocarbon

Light hydrocarbon fossil fuels, particularly premium unleaded petrol

Increasing in response to the offset of decreasing lead emission from unleaded petrol


Council Action to Improve Air Quality

Councils have an important role to play in improving local air quality through their provision of infrastructure, regulatory activities and the development of planning and environmental policies.

What you can do

Everyone has a role to play in improving air quality locally. Read our tips for Improving Air Quality for more information.


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