While Council is exploring ways it can address the environmental and health concerns attributed to poor air quality in our municipality, there are things you can do now to contribute to a cleaner and healthier City.

It starts with understanding the problem, which is the impact of poor quality on our health – in Maribyrnong this is can be demonstrated by our Asthma rates, which are among the worst in Victoria.

Here you will find a range of resources and information to help you better understand the importance of air quality, its impact on Melbourne’s West and ways we can come together and breathe easier.

Polluted air comes from a range a different sources like industry emissions, vehicle exhaust, smoke and even dust. The key indicator of air quality is not just the amount of ‘particulate matter’ (PM) that is in the air, but also its size.

Particulate matter is generally grouped into three categories: coarse, fine and ultrafine.

Large particles can irritate your eyes, nose and throat, but it’s the finer ones, generally anything finer than what is known as PM2.5, which poses the greatest risk to our health. These particles can get deep into your lungs and bloodstream.

To put this into perspective, the diameter of particulate matter is measured in micrometres, which is one thousandth of a millimetre. A grain of sand is 9 micrometres – so 2.5 is tiny!

While PM2.5 particles are microscopic, they are big enough to be ingested directly into our lungs.

This can cause greater harm to people who are sensitive to air pollution like small children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions.

You can find out more about polluted air and particulate matter, here.

PM2.5 and your health | Environmental Protection Agency 2020

Areas with high pollution sources such as main roads, coal fired plants and industrial areas, major cities and outer suburban regions are referred to as pollution ‘hot spots’. This is because they contain the highest level of particulate matter and other pollutant gasses that can have severe impacts on our health. These pollutants all cause harm – even at lower levels than current government standards. Given the industrial working history of Melbourne’s West, our community is at an even greater risk, with Yarraville and Brooklyn being named as two of 12 air pollution hotspots in Australia.

In the 2019 ABC podcast, Life Matters, host and journalist Hilary Harper is joined by Dr Vicki Kotsirilos from Doctors for the Environment Australia, and Martin Wurt, President of the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group to discuss how the pollution in our municipality is poor and getting worse.

They explain how factors like a growing population and ongoing industrial manufacturing are further impacting the quality of our air; and regardless of where you live in Melbourne – no amount of air pollution is safe.

Even in developed country like Australia, poor air quality is known to contribute to asthma, poor lung development, heart disease, underweight newborns, infertility and diabetes. The risks for children are far greater as their lungs do not fully develop until adulthood, meaning constant exposure to polluted air can have life-long impacts on our younger generation.

The podcast also interviews local residents, like Kate from Yarraville, who shares their fears for the health of their young son. Kate explains that their family are unable to open their windows or play outside due to the overwhelming smell of diesel emitted from trucks in the area.

You can listen to the full Life Matters Podcast here and learn more about what needs to be done to restore safe and breathable air for our community and country.

Historically, Melbourne’s West is the epicenter of industry. From manufacturing to international Ports, the City of Maribyrnong is a pathway for trucks, heavy vehicles and capital works construction.

Francis Street in Yarraville carries over 5000 trucks per day and Williamstown hosted a daily migration of 2000 trucks before works on the Westgate Tunnel Bridge even began. It is also estimated 50% of trucks driving on Australian roads have no pollution controls at all.

Air pollution is invisible to the naked eye, making it extremely dangerous.

Even if you can’t see it, you can understand it, using the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Calculator. This tool provides you with pollutant concentrations across Melbourne and trends in your local area.

You can find out more on the EPA’s website, here.

This 2022 TED talk tells the story of grassroots campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah who lost their daughter as a result of poor air quality in their South London neighbourhood. This is a tragic story communities are facing globally and why urgent intervention is needed.

You can hear Rosamund’s full story here.

The Tragedy of Air Pollution | Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah | TED 2022

What you can do to help

While Maribyrnong City Council is working with government to clean up our air, it is community collaboration that will bring about true change.

Take up some of the below actions and contribute to cleaner and healthier air for us all.

As a driver

  • Replacing your diesel car with an electric, hybrid or petrol vehicle
  • Not idling your vehicle unnecessarily, particularly outside of schools and childcare centres
  • Keeping your car tuned and regularly replacing air filters, including diesel particulate filters
  • Minimising trips during peak hour by taking public transport

Alternatively, when you can:

  • Take public transport
  • Walk or ride a bike instead of driving where possible

As a homeowner

  • Increase the energy efficiency of your home
  • Minimise the use of air conditioners
  • Use appliances smartly
  • Switch to renewable energy
  • Plant trees
  • Move away from wood heaters to sources of renewable energy heating

As a consumer

  • Recycle and upcycle
  • Consume less
  • Choose sustainable products
  • Eat local and organic produce and less meat
  • Grow your own food