Top 5 Common Toxins Around You!

Who doesn’t wish to walk out of their door and breath CLEAN air in the middle of the city? I do! Today, all across the world air pollution poses a significant threat to human’s health. According to WHO, every year more than 2 Million premature deaths can be attributed to the effects of urban indoor and outdoor pollution.

Even in Australia, where the air quality is considered to be one of the ‘cleanest’ in the world. Due to its vulnerability to bushfires and dust storms, air pollution results in estimated of 4,880 premature deaths every year!

Undoubtably, the kind of air that surrounds you plays a huge role in yours and your loved ones life. There are numerous polluting facilities emitting a variety toxins in Australian air. Clean air is a basic right. Thus, you should always run ‘air quality’ check before buying a property or selecting a school for your kids.

These are TOP 5 Toxins found across Australia and their health and environmental effects -


Carbon monoxide

Carbon Monoxide

Health Effects:

- Inhalation of low levels of carbon monoxide (200 parts per million for 2-3 hours) can cause headache, dizziness, light-headedness and fatigue.

- Exposure to higher concentrations (400 parts per million) of carbon monoxide can cause sleepiness, hallucinations, convulsions, collapse, loss of consciousness and death. It can also cause personality and memory changes, mental confusion and loss of vision.

- Extremely high exposures can cause the formation of carboxyhaemoglobin and decrease the body’s ability to carry oxygen. This can cause a bright red colour to the skin and mucous membranes causing trouble breathing, collapse, convulsions, coma and death.

- Long term (chronic) health effects can occur from exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide. These effects may produce heart disease and damage to the nervous system. Exposure of pregnant women to carbon monoxide may result in low birth weights and other defects in the offspring.

Source: EPA Victoria, 2021

Environment Effects:

Carbon monoxide can affect the amount of other greenhouse gases, which are linked to climate change. Very high levels of carbon monoxide will cause the same problems for birds and animals that are experienced by humans, although these levels are unlikely to be experienced in the environment, except in extreme events such as bushfires. It can cause illness (fatigue, gastric upset) to animals.

Extremely high levels carbon monoxide will be life threatening. Long term (chronic) exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide may produce heart disease and damage to the nervous system. As with women, exposure of pregnant animals to carbon monoxide may cause low birth-rates and nervous system damage to offspring.




Health Effects:

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. Lead toxicity mostly affects the nervous system. Exposure to lead may also cause paralysis in fingers, wrists or ankles. Lead exposure can also cause small increases in blood pressure and may cause anaemia, malnutrition, abdominal pain and colic. High levels of lead can severely damage the brain and kidneys in adults and may cause death.

In pregnant women, exposure to high levels of lead may cause miscarriage. In men, exposure may affect sperm production. Lead can affect a child's mental and physical growth. Unborn children can be exposed through their mothers. Harmful effects include premature birth, smaller babies, decreased mental ability in the infant, learning difficulties and reduced growth in young children. Some effects may persist beyond childhood.

Source:, 2021

Environment Effects:

Lead occurs naturally in the environment. Lead itself does not decompose, however lead compounds are changed by sunlight, air and water. Lead usually adheres to the soil. Movement to groundwater will depend on the type of lead compound and characteristics of the soil. Over time, lead accumulates in living tissues (a process called bioaccumulation) and is persistent in water.

As with humans, exposure to lead can lead to death of animals, birds or fish and death or low growth rate in plants. In soft water, lead is highly poisonous to plants, birds or land animals, long term effects on animal life are shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility and changes in appearance or behavior. As lead bioaccumulates, it is expected that fish tissues will contain lead from polluted waters.


Nitrogen dioxide

Nitrogen Dioxide

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 nitrogen dioxide 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 nitrogen dioxide will likely lead to serious burns.

Source: EPA Victoria, 2021

Environment Effects:

High 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.




Health Effects

Ozone can irritate the lining of the nose, airways and lungs. People who are exposed to enough ozone might feel some pain in their ears, eyes, nose and throat, and they might start to cough. Chest pains can also occur in some people. People with asthma might have more attacks and athletes might find it harder to perform as well as usual.

Source: EPA Victoria, 2021

Environment Effects

In most Australian towns and cities, the amount of ozone in the air does not exceed the national standards. Only larger cities, like Australia's capital cities, have occasions when there is enough ozone in the air for it to be a risk to human health. In larger cities, the level of ozone exceeds the national standard several times a year. The highest levels are found most often in Sydney and Melbourne.


Sulfur dioxide

Sulfur Dioxide

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 headache, 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.

Source: EPA Victoria, 2021

Environment 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.


Polairis - Australia's No.1 Pollution Visualiser Tool


At LENSELL, we aim to provide the accessibility to financial and non-financial information to our users. Thus, we created Polairis – No.1 Australian Pollution Visualiser Tool that informs you about 4000+ polluting facilities, 90+ pollutants, and their adverse effects on your health and the environment.

As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’, with Polairis find out which of these common toxins is polluting around your home, for FREE!

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