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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

National Environment Protection Council

17 September 2001

National Environment Protection Council

Moves to Strengthen Air Quality Standard


Australia is considering new proposals to further strengthen its air quality standards.

NEPC Chair and Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill announced today the start of a formal process to vary the National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality, to extend its coverage to fine particles 2.5 micrometres or less in size (known as PM2.5).

In 1998, national ambient air quality standards to apply in all States and Territories and in land controlled by the Commonwealth were adopted for the first time. These standards cover the six major urban air pollutants - particles, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead. The current standard relates to particles of 10 micrometres or less in size (PM10).

"An increasing number of studies report associations between fine particles and health outcomes, including daily mortality, hospital admissions and effects on asthmatics," Senator Hill said.

"The Australian public are exposed to these particles from sources such as domestic wood fires, motor vehicles and some industrial activities."

NEPC will shortly release a discussion paper that will review alternative approaches for a PM2.5 standard, including the development of an advisory reporting standard, which would require monitoring and reporting of levels of fine particles in major population centres.

Action by NEPC follows a review of the latest scientific findings in relation to the association between fine particles and adverse health effects. The review found that:

The process will include consultation with industry, conservation groups and the public. NEPC is scheduled to make a decision on the proposal in late 2002.

Media contact:
Belinda Huppatz (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
For more information:
Dr Bruce Kennedy, National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation,
(08) 8419 1200, exec@nepc.gov.au

National Environment Protection Council website: http://www.nepc.gov.au

Commonwealth of Australia