EPA calls for community input into national ambient air quality standards

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is calling for community input into proposed changes to key national air quality standards.

“Australia’s air quality has improved significantly over recent decades and is considered good by world standards. However, air pollution remains an important environmental and human health issue. Predictions for a drier, hotter climate, together with projected population increases, pose important challenges to future air quality,” said EPA Executive Director – Regulatory Standards, Assessment and Permissioning, Tim Eaton.

“EPA Victoria has been leading the national review of ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide ambient air quality standards. It is vital these are reviewed as we now know that the effects of air pollution on human health from these pollutants are observable at concentrations below the current National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (AAQ NEPM) standards.”

The National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) has signalled its intention to vary these standards to reflect the latest science on the health risks from these air pollutants. Health risks from exposure to these pollutants include effects on the respiratory and the cardiovascular system. Those most at risk of experiencing adverse effects are people with existing lung diseases (such as asthma), children and the elderly.

An Impact Statement prepared by the NEPC presents options for tighter AAQ NEPM monitoring and reporting standards for these pollutants and is now available for public consultation. The proposed standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide would become significantly stricter, while the AAQ NEPM would include a new, eight-hour ozone standard.

The Impact Statement has been developed in consultation with the Commonwealth Government and all states and territories. It is supported by a large body of work that pulls together air quality and health information, considers the feasibility of updating the standards, and the costs and benefits of a range of potential abatement measures that could be introduced to lower concentrations for these pollutants.

“The Impact Statement provides an opportunity for all interested Victorians to review the evidence supporting the options for varying the AAQ NEPM standards and to give their views on the proposed strengthened standards,” said Mr Eaton.

While the AAQ NEPM itself does not compel or direct pollution control measures, it does provide strong guidelines on air quality standards for each jurisdiction.

The Impact Statement, supporting documents and link to upload written submissions are available at:https://www.nepc.gov.au/nepms/ambient-air-quality/proposed-variation/consultation-2019

About the AAQ NEPM

The AAQ NEPM is an instrument established in 1998 under the National Environment Protection Act (1994) (NEPC Act) to provide a nationally consistent framework for monitoring and reporting on six common ambient air pollutants – carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, photochemical oxidants (ozone), sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (PM) in the larger size fraction of PM10. It was varied in 2003 to include finer particles PM2.5. It was varied in 2016 following a review of the PM10 and PM2.5 standards to reflect the latest scientific evidence at that time and to ensure it provides an adequate level of health protection against the impacts of particle air pollution for the Australian community.

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