Australia: State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (The Atmosphere), Series 1
Department of the Environment, 1997
ISBN 0 642 25294 7
About the Technical Paper
This paper reviews what was known about the impacts of outdoor air quality on human health until June 1995. Some overseas studies had found a relationship between the levels of several pollutants in the outdoor air and death rates, attendances at hospital emergency departments, hospital admissions, respiratory symptoms, use of medication for respiratory disease or lung function. Compared with overseas information, Australian information was limited. The level of many outdoor pollutants are generally lower in Australia than many overseas countries, but the finding that the relationship between level of total suspended particulates, sulphur dioxide or ozone and some health effects may possibly hold over a wide range of concentrations may have implications for Australia.
Further knowledge is needed about the size of the effect from exposure to low level of pollutants over a long period of time; the level to which air pollutants should be reduced to provide a completely 'safe' background level for diseased and healthy populations; and both the benefits and costs of reducing air pollutants to various levels. A consensus on the methodology to be employed in future studies will ensure comparability between them. A program should be designed to explain to the community and respiratory disease patients the nature of the risks to health from air quality and how these can be avoided.