Burrup Peninsula Rock Art and local health concerns report from The University of Adelaide’s

  • Dino Pisaniello, Professor in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, School of Public Health
  • Len Turczynowicz, Senior Public Health Scientist & Risk Assessor, Adelaide Exposure Science and Health, School of Public Health

Executive Summary
Data and information provided on the Yara ammonium nitrate plant emissions show a range of highly irritant gases and particulates that may move off-site due to point source and fugitive emissions. This off-site atmospheric dispersion is subject to local topography and meteorological conditions. Some air quality assessments have been undertaken for Yara using modelling and measurements methods. However, these have not captured worst case exposure conditions for
people that may come into the area and in proximity to the plant. Of particular concern is photographic evidence of a nitrogen dioxide cloud emanating from the nitric acid plant. For nitrogen dioxide to be visible, the concentrations are at least four-times recommended health standards. Records from the plant show that the emission rates of nitrogen dioxide associated with the visible cloud were exceeded 76 times and by up to four-fold. These high emission rates were frequently for more than 15 minutes.
The health impacts associated with these emission substances result from very short-term exposures (e.g. ten minutes). If of sufficient intensity, as suggested from the emissions data, the pollutants would result in severe health outcomes for people exposed, particularly for people with asthmatic or other respiratory conditions. Due to the nature of these inorganic pollutants, the consequences of such high-level exposure are severe and should not be underestimated by industry or government. It is important therefore to ensure exposure assessment captures these transient exposures in areas where people are resident, in order to direct mitigation measures.