This information is for the general community. For assessment of occupational risks, and health impacts of blast fumes for mine workers, please refer to the relevant occupational health service for advice.
Blasting is used to break up solid rock in open cut mines and quarries. Blast fumes are the gases that may be generated during blasting. Some of the gases are toxic and some are not. In terms of health impacts, the critical gases generated are oxides of nitrogen (NOx) - nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO).
Nitrogen dioxide gives blast gas plumes their characteristic reddish orange colour and pungent odour.
Gases produced during blasting usually disperse rapidly and pose no acute health risk. Under certain conditions the gas plume may persist and can affect nearby people or residents who are downwind of the blast site.
Exposure to the fumes in a blast plume is usually very brief - seconds to minutes. For most people, any health effects from exposure to a blast plume are short lived.
Symptoms from high level exposure may include:
Serious lung inflammation (pulmonary oedema) has been known to develop several hours after exposure to very high levels of NO2.
Throughout NSW blast fumes can be reported to the NSW Environment Protection Authority's environment line on 131 555. In the Upper Hunter Valley, blast fumes should also be reported to the Department of Planning & Infrastructure compliance office on 6575 3405.
In NSW call 1300 066 055 to talk to your local Public Health Unit