The current mechanism for setting air quality thresholds in Australia does not adequately protect community health
The current air quality framework to mitigate against the health effects of exposure to air pollution within Australia relies on national environmental protection standards — set out under the National Environmental Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (the ambient air quality NEPM) — and the jurisdictional requirements for monitoring and reporting exceedances.1,2 The ambient air quality NEPM sets reportable limits for key criteria air pollutants.1 Criteria air pollutants are those that are legislated internationally as measures of air quality and include particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and lead1 (Box). Air toxics are non‐criteria air pollutants that are considered to pose a hazard to human health.7 Air toxics are legislated under a separate NEPM which has the goal of generating baseline data for later development of standards for five compounds: benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, formaldehyde, toluene and xylenes.7 The air toxics standards, based on the gathered baseline data, were due to be set in 20127 but are yet to be reviewed.
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