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Top End Air Quality

18 May 2018

Ambient air quality levels recorded at the NT EPA ambient air monitoring stations in Darwin have shown air quality for PM2.5 and PM10 to be deteriorating during the past few days.

The measured levels are associated with fire activity and it is likely that there will be further deterioration in air quality for a few more days as fires continue and smoke is circulated through the Darwin airshed.

PM2.5 is a measure of particles of less than 2.5 micrometres diameter in air, whilst PM10 measures particles of less than 10 micrometres in diameter. By way of comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometres in diameter.

On review of these levels, Northern Territory Department of Health, A/Executive Director Public Health, Xavier Schobben said:

“These particulates can impact human health, from itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation and runny nose, to more serious conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.

“Smoke can also aggravate existing heart and lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.

“Symptoms from exposure can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with these conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs.”

If symptoms do not settle down, those affected should seek medical advice.

The following precautions might also help:

  • Staying indoors with doors and windows closed
  • Air-conditioning can improve the quality of the air you breathe (make sure intake is switched to recirculate)
  • Avoid vigorous exercise (especially younger children and the elderly or if you have a respiratory condition such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes)
  • If you are an asthmatic or have a respiratory or heart condition and you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, wheeze or chest pain, then you should rest and follow your prescribed treatment plan. Always try to keep on hand at least a week’s supply of medications
  • If symptoms do not settle, you should seek medical advice. People on home oxygen treatment should continue as prescribed, if breathlessness worsens, contact your doctor


The ambient air quality monitoring station data are available at www.ntepa.nt.gov.au/waste-pollution/air