Petrol sniffing is a form of substance misuse and can cause a number of serious health impacts, including brain damage or death. This can have a major effect in Indigenous communities where petrol sniffing is a problem and on the families who live there.
Low aromatic fuel has been designed to discourage people from sniffing by lowering the amount of the toxic aromatic components, which give people who sniff petrol a ‘high’.
The Australian Government funds the extra costs of producing low aromatic unleaded fuel. This allows it to be sold at a similar price to regular unleaded fuel.
Fuel manufacturers, retailers, distributors and mechanics are key partners with the Australian Government in delivering low aromatic fuel to regional and remote communities.
There are around 180 retail sites across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia that stock low aromatic fuel. The fuel has been available in many remote places since 2005. A map showing the availability of low aromatic fuel is available below.
The replacement of regular unleaded fuel with low aromatic fuel in targeted regions is a proven strategy to reduce petrol sniffing. Research by the Menzies School of Health Research has found that:
- low aromatic fuel is linked with a continuing decline in the numbers and frequency of young people sniffing petrol in remote communities
- sniffing rates have been reduced by 88% across communities surveyed since 2005-07
- a comprehensive regional approach works best to reduce petrol sniffing.
Low aromatic fuel has a minimum octane rating of 91 and can be used any engine in which manufacturers recommend the use of regular unleaded 91 fuel. This includes cars, boats and small engines such as lawn mowers, whipper snippers, generators, chainsaws, bikes and all-terrain vehicles. It can be mixed with the regular unleaded fuel already in your engine.
The fuel has undergone independent testing to ensure it complies with the quality standards of other fuels used in Australia.
Low aromatic fuel still contains some volatile substances. As with other fuels, it is designed for engines, not people. It should not be inhaled as it can have adverse health effects and, in extreme cases, may cause suffocation and death.
Availability of low aromatic fuel
Consolidating or expanding the low aromatic unleaded fuel rollout (text version of map)
Factors that influence the availability of low aromatic fuel:
- Community Request – If a community or a fuel outlet feels there is a need for low aromatic fuel to be available in their area, they can approach the Department for assistance, either emailing to LowAromaticFuel@niaa.gov.au or contacting one of our Regional Offices.
- Consultation – consultation with the broader community, fuel distributors and fuel retailers must take place before low aromatic fuel is introduced to a new area.
- Logistics – the storage and distribution of low aromatic unleaded fuel in a new area must be proven logistically viable and sustainable before it can replace regular unleaded petrol in a new area.
- Legislative requirements – In some areas, the sale and supply of regular unleaded fuel is prohibited by law, and low aromatic is available in its place.
Areas where low aromatic unleaded fuel is widely available
- Arnhem Land
- Tennant Creek
- Central Australia
- East Kimberley
Areas where there is some availability of low aromatic unleaded fuel
- Gulf of Carpentaria
- Western Cape York
- Darwin (one station only) – Shell Coles Express 380 Stuart Highway, Winnellie – This is to make it easier for people travelling in petrol cars or taking motorised equipment from Darwin to communities to fill up their cars and any small motors (such as mowers, whipper snippers and generators) with low aromatic fuel at the start of the journey.
Some individual communities also stock low aromatic unleaded fuel outside these areas.
The Department works with communities, fuel retailers, local health providers and other stakeholders to continually monitor areas where petrol sniffing emerges as a concern and considers if the rollout of low aromatic fuel in that area will reduce harm.
In addition to the fact sheets provided below, you can find more information at the following:
Additional information on petrol sniffing and other volatile substance abuse can be found on the following webpages:
- The Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service (CAYLUS) mission is to support community initiatives that improve quality of life and address substance misuse affecting young people in Central Australia. Find out more at www.caylus.org.au
- Youth Empowered Towards Independence (YETI) is a community based organisation that works with vulnerable young people. Find out more at www.yeti.net.au
For more information on volatile substance responses at state or territory level, you can refer to the following webpages: