'The Dirty Truth': Potent Pollution Determined By Your Postcode

The less you earn, the more likely you are to live in a highly-polluted area.

The gap between rich and poor doesn't just apply to income, it also applies to the air we breathe.

A new report by the Australian Conservation Foundation, has mapped out the postcodes burdened by the most pollution, and those who earn less are more likely to live in highly polluted areas.

In regional areas, it is mining and coal that has the biggest effect on air quality, with Mount Isa in Queensland suffering the worst air pollution in the country due to mines. The Mount Isa Mine is responsible for 90.12 percent of the town's air pollution.

Newman in Western Australia comes in second, and is also the result of mining pollution from the BHP iron ore mines, which are responsible for a combined 41.09 percent of the area's pollution.

Victoria's Latrobe Valley is fourth on the list because of the AGL Loy Yang power station, which contributes 66.77 percent of emissions in this area.

Rounding out the top five, is Collie, also in Western Australia, due to the Muja Power Station.

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Top five postcodes for NPI emissions.

The picturesque Hunter Region is known as a tourist destination for wine lovers, but it is the third worst place to live for air quality. The Bayswater Power Station creates 51.9 per cent of the air pollution in this area.

In four of the country's capital cities, it is emissions from refineries that have the worst impact on air quality.

"Essentially one refinery dominates the pollution in that area, the pollution is so massive," Matt Rose, ACF Economics Program Manager, told 10 daily.

Botany Bay is the worst place to live in Sydney, while the Altona Refinery puts Altona on the list as the worst place in Melbourne.

The Port of Brisbane postal area is the Queensland capital's most highly polluted postcode, with Parmelia topping Perth's list as having the worst air quality.

Postcode with highest NPI emissions in each capital city. Image: ACF

Port Adelaide's cement plant makes it Adelaide's most polluted postcode, while metal smelting puts Hobart's Moonah area on the list.

Fyshwick in the nation's capital is heavily polluted by quarrying in the area making it the worst area in Canberra, while waste management in Malak makes it the area in Darwin with the worst air quality.

Low and middle income households suffer the most, with 90 percent of the country's air pollution found here, while just 0.1 percent of pollution affects the highest earners.

Cost of housing and corporate power could be behind the pollution concentration Rose said.

"It could be because it is easier for less wealthy people to afford houses in this area," he said.

"The other factor is that governments and businesses know they can put polluting facilities in these [poorer] areas because the population is less likely to push back."

Distribution of NPI facilities across household incomes. Image: ACF

The emissions data was collected from the National Pollutant Inventory, which records the volume of major air pollutants produced by each facility. It is then compared with the household incomes provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Ninety-one per cent of all air pollution is the result of three major industries -- mining, manufacturing and utilities (electricity, gas, water and waste) the report found.

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Number of facilities per sector in the NPI data. Image: ACF

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The report recommends a commission be ordered into air pollution in Australia, and an authority body to be established to implement new laws established.

But for those living in highly polluted areas now, Rose said there's one sure way to escape it -- but it's not easy.

"Basically, to escape air pollution you have to live in an affluent area," Rose said.

Featured image: 10 daily

Contact the author jdunne@networkten.com.au