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Australia proposes new ambient air quality standards

The (Australian) National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) has proposed new ambient air quality standards in the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality Measure (AAQ NEPM) for the following gases:

  • ozone (O3)
  • nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • sulphur dioxide (SO2).

The following table compares the new proposed standards with the 2005 World Health Organisation (WHO) global ambient air quality guidelines and New Zealand’s national environmental standards for air quality.

An impact statement, published by the NEPC, found there are health effects arising from exposure to O3, NO2 and SO2 in Australian cities at their current concentrations. The associated combined health costs due to mortality and hospitalisation over the period 2010–2014 were of the order of $562 million to $2,405 million, depending on the choice of concentration response functions (CRFs). However, when considering the full cost benefit anlaysis, the application of the different CRF groups did not change the overall outcome, which was a negative net present value (NPV) to society.

The statement further noted that with the predicted population growth in Australian cities and regional areas, the number of people that are exposed to air pollution will also increase, leading to an increased health burden.

Of interest, a modelled abatement package scenario was shown to not be cost-effective in achieving reductions in pollutant levels. The impact statement recommended consideration be given to alternative abatements that may achieve a larger impact across whole populations such as those associated with motor vehicles and transport options.

The impact statement is available here.

[Source: CASANZ]