A thick haze blanketed Tamworth for much of Wednesday as a cool change brought dust from the west shrouding much of NSW in severe and hazardous conditions.
Air quality assessments showed Tamworth had a poorer air quality index than the eastern suburbs of Sydney on Wednesday morning and through the afternoon.
The office of environment and heritage listed Tamworth’s air quality as poor with potential health impacts on Wednesday afternoon.
Later on in the day, the North West region had the worst air quality recordings listed in the state.
Narrabri's rating was still listed at more than 157 points, while the air in Gunnedah (105) and Tamworth (117) was very poor.
The dust was moved on by a strong cold front moving north and east across the south-east of Australia.
The office of environment and heritage's director of climate and atmospheric science, Matthew Riley, expected the dust to clear through Wednesday evening, but he foreshadowed similar events could be on the way.
"This is the effect of the drought," Mr Riley told the Leader.
"It is very, very dry across the entire western part of the state and there is very little ground cover.
"This means whenever a front comes through, we're expecting dust storms ."
Mr Riley said the air pollution figures were not affected by the intense fires raging in Tingha and Tabulam.
He said the dust was picked up from the Mallee region in Victoria and the Eyre basin in South Australia by a cold front which moved across eastern Australia this week.
The dust was dragged from the south west right up to Queensland.
"This was a big dust event we'd been tracking for about 36 hours," he said.
Mr Riley said the New England and Northern Tablelands regions experienced very poor air pollution levels throughout the day.
However, it wasn't the worst on record.
"It was not as high as numbers with 'red dawn' event in September 2009, but it was cert amongst the highest figures we've seen," he said.
EARLIER:A thick haze has blanketed Tamworth with air quality taking a severe and hazardous turn
Recent quality assessments show Tamworth had a poorer air quality index than the eastern suburbs of Sydney on Wednesday morning.
The Office of Environment and Heritage listed Tamworth’s air quality as poor with an index rating of 107, on Wednesday afternoon.
It is recommended people with heart or lung disease avoid outdoor exercise.
Narrabri’s air has been rated as very poor with one of the worst indices in the state (160).
The department has issued a warning for a dust front expected to impact the Hunter and Northern Tablelands regions.
Meanwhile, activity across the fireground at Tingha has increased due to strengthening winds forcing Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews to issue an emergency warning alert.
WEDNESDAY MORNING: The Office of Environment and Heritage listed Tamworth’s air quality index at 99 this morning, just one point away from moving into the “poor” category.
For now, the NSW government has urged Tamworth people who are sensitive to air pollution to plan strenuous outdoor activities when air quality is better.
Should Tamworth crack the 100 point threshold a health alert will be issued.
On Wednesday morning, the NSW Rural Fire Service downgraded the Tingha Plateau to watch and act with a 5618 hectare fire still burning.
The NSW RFS update said there was an increase in fire activity on the southern side of the fire, burning towards Howell Road.
Firefighters continue to work in and around a number of properties as the main fire approaches.
Crews continue to strengthen containment lines around Tingha and Old Mill ahead of deteriorating weather today.
The fire service has advised if you are in the Howell Road area and your plan is to leave and the path is clear, leave now towards Bundarra.
If your plan is to stay with your property, ensure you are well prepared and know what you will do if the fire reaches your location.
Thunderbolts Way/Bundarra Road is closed.
A number of schools will be closed today including: Gilgai Public School, Tingha Public School, Bundarra Central Public School and Kingstown Public School.