Vehicle Pollution in Australia and Townsville

Australia's vehicle fleet is the country's largest source of atmospheric pollutants. According to Queensland Transport, in southeast Queensland, for example, extensive studies have shown up to 72% of air pollution is attributable to the motor vehicle. The Queensland Transport website has a facility allowing the public to report smoky vehicles.

The extent to which pollution from vehicles becomes a human or environmental health issue is determined by a combination of factors. These include features such as the type, age and condition of the vehicles. Older vehicles tend to be much more polluting that more contemporary vehicles that have had less wear on the engines.

Topographical and climactic features also play an important part in determining the severity of air pollution. For example, the hills that surround southeast Queensland can act to prevent the dispersal of vehicular pollution. On the other hand, prevailing winds and rain events can ameliorate the problem.

Motor vehicle pollution has a range of negative impacts. Pollutants from vehicle exhaust and the effects these pollutants have include:

  • lead (mental retardation)

  • sulphur dioxide (acid rain)

  • carbon monoxide (poisonous in high concentrations)

  • hydrocarbons and ozone (photochemical smog)

  • particulates (lung cancer and asthma)

  • nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide (global warming).

Click here for more information about the effects of motor vehicle pollutants.

Various initiatives such as fuel economy standards and modern technology can assist to reduce the total pollutants per vehicle. One particularly effective remedy for reducing vehicular pollution has been the introduction of lead free petrol and the phase out of leaded fuel. However, Australia-wide, motor vehicle ownership and total kilometers travelled contiues to increase. For example VKT (vehicle kilometres travelled) increased from 84.8 billion kilometres in 1979 to 134.3 billion kilometres in 1998. (See SOE 2001 Report for more information).

The increase in vehicle numbers overwhelms these initiatives to the extent that air pollution from vehicles increases Australia-wide.

Vehicle Pollution in Townsville

Topographical features of Townsville such as the predominant sea breeze act in Tonwville's favour to keep air pollution levels low.

While there are no established figures for the total air pollution associated with vehicles in Townsville, it is possible to derive some indicative figures by referring to a number of sources.

It is important to bear in mind that with an increasing population of Townsville, motor vehicle pollution is likely to increase. When or if vehicular air pollution becomes a noticible City-wide problem remains to be seen.

Below is a snap shot of vehicle owership in Townsville focussing on vehicles in postcode area 4810.

This includes the suburbs Rowes Bay, Townsville, West End, Belgian Gardens, Castle Hill, North Ward, Pallarenda Railway Estate and South Townsville.

Total: 17,056 motor vehicles (including trailers and motor cycles)

Petrol unleaded - 9690
Petrol leaded - 3156
Diesel - 1650
Dual fuel - 165
LPG other gasses - 10
Electric - 1

Trailers (various) - 2384

Type s of pollutant pie chart

Australian Bureau of Statistics: 2001
Motor Vehicle Census for postcode 4810

Click for assessment of emissions in Townsville.