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State of the Air report: Australia's air quality improving.



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Media Release The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP Minister for the Environment and Heritage

16 April 2004

State of the Air report: Australia's air quality improving

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today released State of the Air, the first comprehensive picture of Australia's urban air quality.

"State of the Air is a landmark report that examines the six most common air pollutants — pollutants that contribute to cardio-vascular disease and respiratory conditions such as asthma in our cities and towns, " Dr Kemp said.

"It's Australia's first air pollution report which looks at all major cities using nationally consistent scientific methods.

"The good news is that between 1991-2001, air quality has improved for four of the six damaging pollutants: lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Capital cities are now reporting levels well below the national standards for these key pollutants.

"However, I'm concerned to see that ozone and particle levels have remained relatively high and that in 2001 the ozone and particle levels were higher than national air standards in some cities on at least one day. This partly reflects the impact of increasing numbers of cars and trucks and distances travelled on our city roads.

"Overall, our air quality is improving because of effective national regulations such as the phasing-out of leaded petrol, new fuel quality standards, national controls on motor vehicle emissions, as well as initiatives under the $18 million Air Pollution in Major Cities program, funded through the Natural Heritage Trust. Advances in industry and vehicle technologies have helped clean up our air too."

State of the Air looks at data from 79 sites across the country, and assesses 2001 data against air quality standards that the Australian Government established in 1998 with State and Territory governments. The standards are amongst the most stringent in the world.

"By presenting statistics for the first time in a nationally consistent way, State of the Air provides a benchmark for air quality reporting," Dr Kemp said.

"The report will assist all governments to develop sound strategies to combat air pollution, and will be particularly valuable to researchers and the scientific community.

"Although States and Territories have the major constitutional responsibility for air pollution, the

Australian Government will continue to target major sources of air pollution — motor vehicle exhausts and wood heaters — through community education initiatives such as the Travel Behaviour Change and tighter fuel standards. I am also working with State and Territory Ministers to gather the information needed to develop a new set of national standards for another group of air pollutants, the air toxics, which are also damaging to health."

Full copies of the State of the Air: National Ambient Air Quality Status and Trends Report 1991-2001and the community summary State of the Air can be found at www.deh.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/status/

A PDF of the community summary State of the Air is also available for download. (community-summary.pdf - 524 KB)

Fact Sheet — State of the Air Report

● The State of the Air: National Ambient Air Quality Status and Trends Report 1991-2001

presents the first national picture of our ambient (or outdoor) air quality. ● It uses air quality data collected from 79 sites across the country and presents statistics in

a nationally consistent way. ● The State of the Air report examines six key pollutants because they are pollutants to

which most Australians are exposed: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, lead and airborne particles (in this instance ozone refers to the harmful pollutant found at ground-level, not the ozone layer high in the atmosphere that shields us from harmful rays from the sun).

● These pollutants come from a range of sources including motor vehicles, power plants,

refineries, smelters, woodheaters, bushfires and controlled burning. Some are formed when certain chemicals react.

● The report measures air quality against national standards that are the same for every

town and city across the country, and that are amongst the most stringent in the world.

● From 1991-2001, the report found our air quality improved for lead, carbon monoxide,

sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. But ozone and particle levels have remained relatively high.

● In 2001, the air quality standards were met for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and

lead at all monitoring sites. The standards were exceeded for ground level ozone and particles in some cities, and sulfur dioxide levels were high at specific sites outside capital cities.

● Overall, our air quality is improving because of effective regulation of fuel and motor

vehicle emissions, as well as advances in industrial and vehicle technologies. ● To reduce levels of these six major air pollutants, a range of national projects was

implemented over five years through the $18 million Air Pollution in Major Cities program, funded through the Natural Heritage Trust. ● The Australian Government is also targeting woodsmoke through the Natural Heritage

Trust-funded Woodheater Replacement Program in Launceston, which has the worst woodsmoke problem of any city in Australia. This has funded the replacement of some 1850 woodheaters with cleaner technology. A complementary audit program will ensure

woodheaters comply with emissions standards nationally.

● The Australian Government's Travel Behaviour Change and Cycle Connect programs are

also helping to change our habits and car use through environmental education and new transport options. ● To combat pollution from traffic in our cities the Australian Government has:

❍ Cut emissions from motor vehicles by setting fuel standards under the Fuel Quality

Standards Act from January 2002 (these fuel standards, together with complementary vehicle standards, are predicted to cut vehicle emissions of some pollutants by up to 60% in the period from 2000 to 2020) ❍ Phased out leaded petrol from January 2002

❍ Tightened controls on emissions from diesel vehicles

❍ Worked with the States and Territories to develop a new set of standards for Air

Toxics, dealing with emissions of five pollutants known to be toxic to human health ❍ Introduced a new Fuel Consumption Label for new car models that lists both fuel

consumption and carbon dioxide emissions from July 2003