Air quality in the home

There are four major factors to consider when assessing the air quality of a home environment in Victoria:

  • distance from pollution sources
  • the effect of sea breezes
  • local terrain
  • indoor air quality.

Apart from bushfire smoke and windblown dust, most of Melbourne's air quality problems are associated with emissions from transport, industry, and commercial and domestic activity. Therefore, living further away from the city will generally improve the quality of your air.

There is not a lot of difference between suburbs to the north, east, south or west of the city. This is because the Melbourne’s major air pollution problems occur on days of light winds and stable conditions, so a wide area is affected and all suburbs tend to experience similar levels of pollution.

There are a few exceptions to this general rule, however:

  • Living closer to Bass Strait means a sea breeze will be cleaner, as it does not travel over the city. So, generally speaking, areas south of the city will be cleaner than areas the same distance north of the city.
  • There is a peak of pollution around each major road. A hundred metres away, the effect is gone and there is just the background or ‘ambient’ level of pollution. This local peak will be significant at times of high traffic (morning and evening peak hours).
  • Air quality on a hill is generally better than in a valley, because pollution will tend to accumulate in a valley, particularly on calm nights.

Indoor air pollution

It is equally, if not more important to consider the quality of your indoor air:

  • It will not help if your home is full of smoke from cigarettes, incense or an open fireplace.
  • Any gas or wood stoves for heating or cooking need to be properly flued so that pollution goes out through a chimney and not into your house.
  • Any chemicals you use in your home will affect your air quality. This includes varnishes, paints, and glues as well as cleaning chemicals. Newly purchased particle-board or medium density fibreboard can also give off gases for many months.
If a chemical or product smells bad, it is probably bad for your health. Minimise your use of such chemicals, and when using them remember to open windows to ventilate your house. Consider natural alternatives and keep your home safe.

Page last updated on 29 Oct 2014