Pollution

The Director-General’s Environmental Assessment Report (page 30) identifies the following pollutants that will be generated by the Dalton gas-fired power plant.

“The scope of the assessment was based on the key pollutants generated by an open-cycle gas turbine power station – Dalton Power Project Director-General’s Environmental Assessment Report NSW Government 31 Department of Planning & Infrastructure nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and formaldehyde.”

Oxides of nitrogen (source)

Oxides of nitrogen are a mixture of gases that are composed of nitrogen and oxygen. Two of the most toxicologically significant compounds are nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Health effects

Low levels of oxides of nitrogen can irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs, possibly leading to coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness and nausea. Exposure can also result in a build up of fluid in the lungs for 1-2 days after exposure. Breathing high levels of oxides of nitrogen can cause rapid burning, spasms and swelling of tissues in the throat and upper respiratory tract, reduced oxygenation of tissues, a build up of fluid in the lungs, and maybe even death.

Skin or eye contact with high concentrations of oxides of nitrogen gases or nitrogen dioxide liquid will likely lead to serious burns.

Environmental effects

Excessive levels of the oxides of nitrogen, particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2), can cause death in plants and roots and damage the leaves of many agricultural crops. NO2 is the damaging component of photochemical smog. Excessive levels increase the acidity of rain (lower the pH), and thus lower the pH of surface and ground waters and soil. The lowered pH can have harmful effects, possibly even death, on a variety of biological systems.

Sulfur dioxide (source)

Used as a fruit preserving agent and as a food preservative or additive. In the fermentation stage of wine making, bleaching textile fibres, manufacture of paper, disinfectant in breweries and food factories.

Health effects

Exposure to concentrations of 10 to 50 parts per million for 5 to 15 minutes causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, choking and coughing.

Exposure of the eyes to liquid sulfur dioxide, (from, for example an industrial accident) can cause severe burns, resulting in the loss of vision. On the skin it produces burns. Other health effects include headaches, general discomfort and anxiety. Those with impaired heart or lung function and asthmatics are at increased risk. Repeated or prolonged exposure to moderate concentrations may cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, wheezing and lung damage. It has also proved to be harmful to the reproductive systems of experimental animals and caused developmental changes in their newborn.

Environmental effects

Even low concentrations of sulfur dioxide can harm plants and trees and reduce crop productivity. Higher levels, and especially the acidic deposits from acid rain, will adversely affect both land and water ecosystems.

Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) (source)

PM10 is particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter, PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. PM2.5 is generally described as fine particles. By way of comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometres, so roughly 40 fine particles could be placed on its width.

PM10 and PM2.5 are not used for any application.

Health effects

Recent epidemiological research suggests that there is no threshold at which health effects do not occur. The health effects include:

  • toxic effects by absorption of the toxic material into the blood (e.g. lead, cadmium, zinc)
  • allergic or hypersensitivity effects (e.g. some woods, flour grains, chemicals)
  • bacterial and fungal infections (from live organisms)
  • fibrosis (e.g. asbestos, quartz)
  • cancer (e.g. asbestos, chromates)
  • irritation of mucous membranes (e.g. acid and alkalis)
  • increased respiratory symptoms, aggravation of asthma and premature death. The risks are highest for sensitive groups such as the elderly and children.

The factors that may influence the health effects related to exposure to particles include:

  • the chemical composition and physical properties of the particles
  • the mass concentration of the airborne particles
  • the size of the particles (smaller particles may be associated with more adverse effects because they can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs)
  • the duration of exposure (short and long term, possibly in years).

Environmental effects

PM10 may affect animals in the same way as it affects humans. Particles in general, not specifically PM10 or PM2.5, affect the aesthetics and utility of areas through visibility reduction and may affect buildings and vegetation. The specific effect of particles depends on their composition, concentration and the presence of other pollutants such as acid-forming gases.

 

Formaldehyde (source)

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects.

Health effects

Exposure to low levels of formaldehyde irritates the eyes, nose and throat, and can cause allergies affecting the skin and lungs. Higher exposure levels can cause throat spasms and a build up of fluid in the lungs, leading to death. Contact can also cause severe eye and skin burns, leading to permanent damage. These symptoms may appear hours after exposure, even if no pain is felt. Formaldehyde can cause an asthma-like respiratory allergy. Any further exposure can cause asthma attacks with shortness of breath, wheezing, cough and/or chest tightness. Repeated exposures may cause bronchitis, with coughing and shortness of breath.

In 2004, the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission classified formaldehyde as a potential carcinogen (when inhaled). A carcinogen is a chemical capable of causing cancer.

Environmental effects

Formaldehyde dissolves easily in water, and eventually decomposes. In air, formaldehyde decomposes relatively quickly (within 24 hours) to form formic acid and carbon monoxide. Formaldehyde does not bioaccumulate in plants and animals.

Chronic effects in animals may include shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility and changes in appearance or behaviour. Chronic effects can be seen a long time after first exposure to a toxic chemical. Formaldehyde has high chronic toxicity to aquatic life. Formaldehyde may cause cancer and other chronic illnesses in rodents. Birds and terrestrial animals exposed to formaldehyde could contract similar diseases. Insufficient data are available to evaluate or predict the long-term effects of formaldehyde in plants.

As identified in 3.1.3.5 HAP Emissions and Table 3.1-3 page 13 of The US EPAs AP-42, Vol. I, 3.1: Stationary Gas Turbines for natural gas fired turbines, formaldehyde accounts for about two-thirds of the total HAP emissions. The following pollutants account for the remaining one-third of HAP emissions.

Acrolein (source)

Acrolein is mainly used as a chemical intermediate for the manufacture of plastics or colloidal forms of metals. It has been used as an additive for perfumes. It is used as a herbicide in irrigation channels to control algae and submerged weed growth. In the past, acrolein was used in military poison gas mixtures, including tear gas.

Health effects

Symptoms of single or short-term exposure to acrolein may include irritation to the eyes, skin and the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. It can be corrosive. Exposure can lead to decreased pulmonary function, pulmonary oedema (a build up of fluid in the lungs, characterised by severe shortness of breath), and chronic respiratory disease.

Longer term exposure to acrolein may result in general respiratory congestion and eye, nose and throat irritation. Systemic effects to the respiratory, reproductive, neurological and haematological systems may also result.

Environmental effects

Acrolein has very high or high toxicity to various species of freshwater fish, aquatic invertebrates, algae and aquatic plants. Because of its toxicity to aquatic plants and algae and its relatively rapid dissipation from water, it is used as a herbicide in aquatic systems such as irrigation channels. There is no evidence that it accumulates in living tissues, although studies of high and long-term repeated doses in animals indicate that acrolein causes systemic effects in a number of systems, including respiratory, reproductive, neurological and haematological systems.

Benzene (source)

Benzene is used in the manufacture of a large number of chemicals that contribute to the production of plastics (such as polystyrene) synthetic fibres, detergents, pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Health effects

This depends on how much benzene you have been exposed to, for how long, and your current state of health. In certain circumstances, even a brief exposure to very high levels of benzene can result in death. Worksafe Australia classifies benzene as a toxic health hazard, listing its concentration cut off level at 0.10% weight/weight. Exposure can result in symptoms such as skin and eye irritations, drowsiness, dizziness, headaches and vomiting. Benzene is carcinogenic and long-term exposure at various levels can affect normal blood production and can be harmful to the immune system. It can cause leukaemia (cancer of the tissues that form white blood cells) and has also been linked with birth defects in animals and humans.

Environmental effects

Benzene has a high acute toxic effect on aquatic life. Long-term effects on marine life can mean shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility and changes in appearance or behaviour. It can cause death in plants and roots and damage to the leaves of many agricultural crops.

Ethylbenzene (source)

Ethylbenzene is used primarily in the production of styrene and synthetic polymers.

Health effects

Exposure can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. High concentration can cause you to become dizzy, light headed, or to pass out. Very high levels can cause paralysis, trouble breathing and death. Prolonged exposure can cause drying, scaling and even blistering. High exposure may damage the liver. Chronic (long-term) health effects can occur at some time after exposure to ethylbenzene and can last for months or years. Ethylbenzene in high levels is broken down more slowly in your body than low levels of ethylbenzene. Similarly, ethylbenzene mixed with other solvents is also broken down more slowly than ethylbenzene alone.

Environmental effects

Acute toxic effects may include the death of animals, birds, or fish, and death or low growth rate in plants. Ethylbenzene has high acute toxicity to aquatic life. It has caused injury to various agricultural crops. Insufficient data are available to evaluate or predict the short-term effects of ethylbenzene to birds or land animals. Chronic toxic effects may include shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility, and changes in appearance or behaviour. Ethylbenzene has a slight tendency to bioaccumulate.

Toluene (source)

The majority of toluene is used as a component of petrol. It is also used in paints, lacquers, inks, adhesives, rubber, and cleaning agents.

Health effects

Short-term exposure to high levels of toluene results first in light-headedness and euphoria, followed by dizziness, sleepiness, unconsciousness, and in some cases death. When exposure is stopped prior to death the symptoms disappear. Long-term exposures at low levels have caused effects to the kidneys. Long-term exposures to high amounts of toluene by intentional abuse have been linked to permanent brain damage. Also reported are problems with speech, vision, and hearing, loss of muscle control, loss of memory and balance and reduced scores of psychological tests.

Environmental effects

Toluene evaporates when exposed to air. It also evaporates from water. In the air it quickly reacts to form other chemicals. In the water and soil, bacteria break it down. It has moderate acute (short-term) toxicity on aquatic life. Toluene has caused membrane damage to the leaves in plants. It has moderate chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. Chronic and acute effects on birds or land animals have not been determined. Toluene is expected to minimally bioaccumulate.

Xylene (source)

Xylene is used as a solvent, to manufacture petrol, as a raw material to manufacture chemicals used to make polyester fibre, and to make dyes, paints, lacquers, and insecticides.

Health effects

Xylenes may irritate the eyes, nose and throat. They may cause stomach problems, drowsiness, loss of memory, poor concentration, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and incoordination. High levels may cause dizziness, passing out, and death. Repeated exposures may damage bone marrow, which causes a low blood cell count. Xylenes may damage a developing foetus.

Environmental effects

Xylene has high acute (short-term) toxicity to aquatic life. It causes injury to various agricultural and ornamental crops. It also has high chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. There is not sufficient data to predict the acute or chronic toxicity of xylene on birds or land animals. Xylene is expected to moderately bioaccumulate in fish.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (source)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed by the incomplete combustion of coal, oil, petrol, wood, tobacco, charbroiled meats, garbage, or other organic materials. Most of them have no known use.

Health effects

Exposure can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and bronchial tubes. Skin contact can cause irritation or a skin allergy. Very high levels may cause headaches, nausea, damage the red blood cells, damage the liver and kidneys, and may even cause death. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has cited a number of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, a number of others are cited as being ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.

Environmental effects

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have moderate to high acute (short-term) toxicity to aquatic life and birds. Some cause damage and death to agricultural and ornamental crops. They have moderate to high chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. Insufficient data are available on the acute or chronic toxicity to land animals. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are moderately persistent in the environment, and can bioaccumulate. The concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in fish and shellfish is expected to be much higher than the environment from which it was taken.