Gippsland Air Pollution

Below is a 45 minute video recording of our online Gippsland Air Quality and Health Forum presented on Wed Aug 26th 2020, organised in partnership with Asthma Australia and Lung Foundation Australia. It summarises health impacts of air pollution and some of what we know about the issues in Gippsland.

For textual information and graphs please scroll down.




For a visual summary of air pollution health impacts:

The problem in the Valley:


"PM2.5s" are microscopic particles that can be breathed in, absorbed into the bloodstream and cause damage throughout the body

A United States study in 2017 of over 60 million people aged 65 and over found that PM2.5 concentrations as low as 5 micrograms per cubic metre of air can harm health and increase risk of death

In 2019 the average concentrations of PM2.5s measured in Latrobe Valley towns were between 7.1 and 8.9 micrograms per cubic metre (7.1 in Morwell South, 7.5 in Moe, 7.6 in Churchill, 7.8 in Morwell East and 8.9 in Traralgon - data from EPA Victoria)

Here are those pollution levels plotted on a graph adapted from the US study that correlated increased pollution exposure with an increased risk of death:



Figure adapted from this article, with annotations based on Latrobe Valley air quality


Another study in Brisbane, published in 2018, found that PM2.5 levels in this range were also associated with increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight for pregnant mothers

The same study found that exposure to ozone was correlated with the same adverse pregnancy outcomes around levels that were average for Morwell South and Traralgon in 2019 (as per EPA data these levels were 17.5 parts per billion for Morwell South and 16.5 parts per billion for Traralgon; ozone levels are not monitored by the EPA in other Latrobe Valley towns)


Where does the pollution come from?


According to estimates by EPA Victoria most air pollution in the Latrobe Valley comes from electricity generation:




Source: Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry Report 2015/2016 Volume III - Health Improvement, viewable here (see p76)



Other parts of Gippsland


We know less about the general air quality in other parts of Gippsland because there are either fewer or no EPA air quality monitors in these areas. However air pollution researchers have estimated that coal pollution may be causing premature deaths, low weight births and asthma symptoms across Gippsland - here are their estimates for each local government area (black lines representing 95% confidence intervals):



Source: Farrow et al, 2020, “Lethal power: how burning coal is killing people in Australia”, unpublished dataset (see the report at https://www.greenpeace.org.au/research/lethal-power-how-coal-is-killing-people-in-australia/ for statewide data and methodology)


Coal pollution must be better regulated


Latrobe Valley coal-fired power stations are currently allowed to emit far more pollution than similar power stations in the United States, Europe and China. The following comparison table is an excerpt from Environmental Justice Australia's 2018 report "Toxic and Terminal":



Since that report was written European limits on pollution have lowered even further

Victorian limits on pollution from coal-fired power stations are far more lax than those in other countries and it's putting Latrobe Valley citizens' health at risk. That's why we're asking EPA Victoria to set new pollution limits in line with current international best practice.


Click here to read and sign our letter to the EPA!


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Header image photo credit: Brian Yap, 2008. Cropped for this webpage. Original photo and licence conditions here