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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

31 January 2003

National Pollutant Inventory 2001-02

All Australians should be able to live under cleaner skies and breathe cleaner air, and governments, industry and the community need to work together to make this a reality, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today.

Dr Kemp was speaking at the release of the 2001-02 National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) data, which confirms the finding in Australia State of The Environment 2001 Report that the quality of air in Australia's cities is improving.

"The latest data shows a record 2,948 facilities reported to the NPI in 2001-2002, up from 2,374 the previous year. And for the first time, facilities reported on the full list of 90 substances, up from only 36 substances in previous years. This provides a much clearer picture of emission levels around the country," Dr Kemp said.

"To achieve cleaner air, the community needs to know the sources of emissions and be able to monitor progress.

"The National Pollutant Inventory - a cooperative program between Federal, State and Territory Governments - is an important internet database that provides information on emissions to air, land and water across Australia.

"Understanding the breadth and depth of any problem is the first step in fixing it. The NPI allows us to not only monitor the emissions performance of industry, but to also gauge the impact of our daily routine and activities.

"It also shows emissions are not entirely derived from industry. In fact, the backyard barbecue, the family car, and even cigarette smokers add to emissions. In some areas where there is no industry, these are major sources of emissions.

"For example, the data shows that each time we light a barbecue, some 41 NPI substances are emitted into the air while smoking a cigarette emits 19 substances and driving the family car 34 substances. These chemicals include benzene and other particles which can cause significant respiratory and other illnesses."

Dr Kemp said by using the NPI data, people can identify the major sources and levels of emissions in their local area. Importantly, the data is assisting industry to benchmark and improve environmental performance.

"Industry response to reporting for 2001-2002 has been excellent and I expect the number of facilities reporting to the NPI will continue to increase and build an even better picture of emissions to our environment in years to come," Dr Kemp said.

Facilities are required to report if they exceed NPI reporting thresholds that relate to use of particular NPI substances, the amount of fuel they burn or - for total nitrogen and total phosphorus - the emission levels.

"I am pleased to see that the oil and gas extraction sector decreased emissions of at least five NPI substances from the previous year. These were benzene, oxides of nitrogen, toluene, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus." (See attached table 1)

"The emissions from the 10 sectors emitting the largest amount of benzene for 2001-2002 also decreased compared with the previous year. (See attached table 2)

"These results are encouraging because they show major industries are taking pollution seriously, embracing cleaner production techniques to minimise emissions and adopting more sustainable practices for the benefit of all.

"However, the results are not uniform. Altered processes in factories, differing production levels and changes in the techniques for estimating emissions may force numbers up or down from year to year," said Dr Kemp.

For instance, the 2001-2002 NPI reveals that substances emitted by the food and beverage sector, such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, had increased from the previous year, while others such as sulfur dioxide, particles, total nitrogen and total phosphorus had decreased. (See attached table 3)

The Howard Government has led the national effort on air quality through a range of National Environment Protection Measures, the first of which was the National Pollutant Industry.

The Commonwealth has also introduced new national fuel quality standards to reduce pollution through cleaner diesel and petrol and through the use of new automotive technology, and has established many Eco-Efficiency Agreements with industry to help reduce their impact on the environment.

For more information about the NPI, visit the website

For more information about other Commonwealth projects to improve air quality visit

Media contacts:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Naomi Dwyer Environment Australia Public Affairs (02) 6274 1015
Dr Chris Mill Environment Australia, NPI Unit (02) 6274 1831

More about NPI

Q: Why do industries have to report?
A: The NPI requires facilities to report emissions of NPI substances for which they exceed NPI reporting thresholds and have an NPI industry handbook published.

Q: What are the reporting thresholds?
A: NPI reporting thresholds relate to use of particular NPI substances, the amount of fuel they burn or - for total nitrogen and total phosphorus - the emission levels.

Q: What are cleaner production activities?
A: Examples of activities are:

Q: What is pollution control equipment?
A: Examples of pollution control equipment are:

Attachment 1: Data on the two industry sectors and on benzene

Table 1 - Oil and Gas Extraction sector -emissions table
New data
1.3 million
1.2 million
8% decrease
Oxides of nitrogen
41 million
40 million
2% decrease
Total nitrogen
33% decrease
Total phosphorus
8 million
100% decrease
2.2 million
1.9 million
14% decrease
Table 2 - Emissions of benzene from facilities
New data
All facilities
1.8 million
2.0 million
Facilities from largest 10 sectors for 2001-2002
1.8 million
1.7 million
Table 3 - Food Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing sector
New data
Carbon monoxide
25 million
27 million
8% increase
25% increase
Oxides of nitrogen
10 million
10 million
No change
Particulate matter 10 mm or less
5.7 million
4.8 million
16% decrease
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
79% increase
Sulfur dioxide
6.8 million
5.9 million
13% decrease
Total nitrogen
51% decrease
Total phosphorus
35% decrease

Attachment 2: Pollution Reduction Programs - Summary and web links

The National Pollutant Inventory

The National Pollutant Inventory was the first National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) and was agreed to by the States, Territories and the Commonwealth in 1998. The desired environmental outcomes are the:

  1. maintenance and improvement of:
    • ambient air quality; and
    • ambient marine, estuarine and fresh water quality;
  2. minimisation of environmental impacts associated with hazardous waste; and
  3. expansion in the re-use and recycling of used materials.

Commonwealth role in protecting our air

A range of Commonwealth initiatives are undertaken in cooperation with States and Territories who have the lead role in controlling pollution in Australia. These are detailed on the Environment Australia (EA) web site (

The Commonwealth focus is:

The Air Pollution in Major Cities Program that is funded under the Natural Heritage Trust for $16 million over five years, aims to reduce the six major air pollutants (oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, particles, photochemical smog, carbon monoxide and airborne lead) through implementation of a range of national projects on clear air (see the Natural Heritage Trust/ Programs link).

National strategies to manage air toxics and indoor air quality are considered in the State of Knowledge Report on Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality (see the Atmosphere/Air Toxics link). Australia continues to manage its ozone-depleting substances, with the orderly phase-out of these substances in accordance with Australia's commitments under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (see the Atmosphere/Air Toxics/Ozone link).

The Commonwealth has a significant role in collating information about greenhouse gases and coordinating programs to reduce emissions. (see the Greenhouse Issues link). The NPI does not include most greenhouse gases.

Role of the States and Territories in protecting our air

The National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for Ambient Air Quality provides, for the first time, a set of national ambient air quality standards for six air pollutants for application across the Commonwealth.

To find out more about NEPMs currently in place and under development see the Environment Protection and Heritage Council web page (

The States and Territories regulate air quality in accordance with the NEPM and their own air quality legislation. There are contact details for the State and Territory officers responsible for the NPI on the NPI web page ( then Contacts).

Commonwealth of Australia