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

3 May 2001


What toxics are in our cities' air?

This is the question posed in a national study launched by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill in Sydney today, World Asthma Day.

The study of the chemical composition of particles in air pollution will be conducted in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart over 12 months, with air samples taken every six days in urban areas.

The particles will be analysed to determine their chemical composition, and the results will feed into research already under way on the relationship between air pollution and health.

"Asthma affects more than two million Australians, and is just one of the respiratory diseases to be linked with particles," Senator Hill said.

"This collaborative project is ground breaking in Australia and, with the related health study, will help explain possible differences between Australian cities in the effects of pollution on asthma and a range of health problems.

"It will explore seasonal differences in particle levels at each site, and may also tell us more about how particular sources contribute to them."

The study is funded with $332,800 under the Commonwealth's Air Toxics Program and the Natural Heritage Trust, with considerable in-kind support contributed by the partners in the project. They include the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, which is leading the project, Griffith University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Queensland Health, Queensland University of Technology, National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicologies and environment protection agencies in each of the States.

"It is encouraging to see such a mix of environment, health, academic, and research organisations working together on such an important project," Senator Hill said.

"The health effects of particles have been the subject of many studies, which have shown links between particle levels in the air and daily mortality, hospital admissions and emergency room attendances for cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

"Particles are usually categorised according to their size, and the adverse health effects of small particles are well known. However, in the observed health effects, the role of the chemical composition of particles is unclear and is subject to significant research worldwide.

"Under the National Environment Protection Council we have established national standards for PM10 and governments are considering the need for a national standard for smaller particles PM2.5.

"The National Environment Protection Council is also considering the need for a National Environment Protection Measure for Air Toxics. Such a measure, if adopted, would set ambient air standards for a number of priority air toxics."

3 May 2001

Contact: Belinda Huppatz: 04109 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia