Australia: Air Quality Standards

Overview

Passed in 1998, Australia’s Air Quality Standards regulate seven pollutant types (the maximum allowable concentrations are detailed below) and are managed by the National Environmental Protection Council. They were created with input from World Health Organization data and adjusted to account for Australia’s climate and geographic characteristics.

Standard type
Ambient air quality standards

Applicability
Nationwide

History

On 26 June 1998, Australia passed the National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality, commonly referred to as the Air NEPM. The policy set national standards for six criteria air pollutants: CO, O3, SO2, NO2, lead, and particulate matter (PM10). In 2003, heeding recommendations from a government-commissioned advisory report, a PM2.5 standard was added as well.

Standards laid out in the Air NEPM are legally binding on each level of Australian government.

Parties participating in air quality management include the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC), the Australian State, and Territory Governments. All of these organizations agreed to the measure upon its creation. The NEPC is a statutory body with law making powers, incorporated into the Environmental Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in June 2010. EPHC remit was withdrawn by Council of Australian Governments (COAG) upon the establishment of the Standing Council on Environment and Water (SCEW) in 2011.

Techinical Standards

Australia’s ambient air quality standards were set on the basis of scientific studies of air quality and human health from all over the world, as well as the standards set by other organizations, such as the World Health Organization. Australian conditions, e.g. climate, geography, and demographics, were taken into account in estimating the likely exposure of Australians to these major air pollutants. Each air quality standard has two elements: the maximum acceptable concentration and the time period over which the concentration is averaged.

Australia’s current ambient air quality standards are listed on the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website.

Australian Ambient Air Quality Standards
Pollutant Averaging period Maximum (ambient) concentration Goal within 10 years
(maximum allowable exceedences)
CO 8 hours 9.0 ppm 1 day a year
NO2 1 hour 0.12 ppm 1 day a year
1 year 0.03 ppm none
Photochemical oxidants (as ozone) 1hour 0.10 ppm 1 day a year
4 hours 0.08 ppm
SO2 1 hour 0.20 ppm 1 day a year
1 day 0.08 ppm
1 year 0.02 ppm none
Lead 1 year 0.50 µg/m3 none
PM10 1 day 50 µg/m3 5 days a year
PM2.5a 1 day 25 µg/m3
1 year 8 µg/m3
Notes:
a. Advisory reporting standards

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