Air pollution is a current issue that many of
the developed and developing countries have been and are still fighting
against, as air quality affects not only the health of humans, but also the
liveability and environment we live in. Even a short-term exposure to air
pollution can lead to drastic health problems, especially for the elderly,
children, and those with predisposed or weak respiratory and cardiovascular
systems.

Over the past few decades, Australia has been
working hard towards implementation and enforcement of regulations in order to
improve their air quality. In June of 1998, Australia’s National Environment
Protection Council (NEPC) took its first step in setting national air quality
standards, through the creation of the National Environment Protection Measure
for Ambient Air Quality (Air NEPM). The Air NEPM sets standards for the six
major air pollutants that most people in Australia are exposed to: carbon
monoxide, ozone (photochemical oxidants), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide,
lead, and PMs (particles).1 Also,
it requires the jurisdictions in Australia to monitor and report their air
quality, making the identification of potential air quality problems much more
efficient for the future.2 In
2000, The Fuel Quality Standards Act was created in order to regulate the
quality of fuel supplied in Australia, and reduce the level of pollutants and
emissions produced that may cause environmental and health problems.3 In
addition, in 2004, the National Environment Protection Air Toxics Measure (Air
Toxics NEPM) was created, in which monitoring investigation levels for five air
toxics – benzene, formaldehyde, benzoapyrene, toluene, and xylenes, were
established.4 These
five toxics heavily affect the human body, especially the respiration and
nervous system. Inhaling benzene can cause carcinogenic effects, and may lead
to development of tumours in lungs, while toluene may cause visual impairment
and weaken the neurological system, leading to poor performance of control.
While Australia has yet to set national air quality emission standards, many
individual jurisdictions have their own standards, and the five toxic
pollutants mentioned above are included in those.5

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Based on world standards, Australia has very
clean air, but there is still work to do and room for improvement. In
2014,  there were public opinions and
complaints that Australia lacks an effective system of regulation for air
pollution, because the important standards to protect human health are set by
the governments of each jurisdiction or district (not the national government),
leading to an inadequate protection of public health.6
Furthermore, the NEPMs were said to be an ineffective and inefficient way of
dealing with air pollution, as there is no penalty if the states and
territories in Australia do not comply with the NEPMs.7 Also,
Australia has one of the world’s most lenient sulfur standards for petrol, as
150ppm is allowed.8
This is 15 times the limit that is allowed in the EU, Japan and the US.  Even though Australia has set good targets
under the Air NEPM, without stricter measures regarding vehicle emissions, the
air quality standards will not be met.

Nevertheless, recently Australia has started to
move towards counteracting and improving the problems stated above. In 2015,
Australia established the National Clean Air Agreement, in which the future
plans and priorities toward air quality are provided.9 In
this agreement, the ministers and the government of the different states and
territories in Australia agreed to implementing or changing standards for
airborne pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter, and emissions of
sulfur dioxide and PMs from a range of different sources (eg. industrial
activity and heating).10 In
2016, the standards of the NEPM for the annual average and 24-hour PM2.5
particle level, was amended to 8µg/m3 and 25µg/m3
respectively11.
The ministers are aiming to move these standards to 7µg/m3 and
20µg/m3, respectively by 2025.12
In addition, in 2017, Product Emissions Standards Rules and Product Emission
Standards Act were implemented, in which the emissions from outdoor power
equipment and marine engines (eg. Garden equipment and outboard motors), and
the emission standards for certain products to address the adverse health and
environmental impacts of air pollution (eg. Noxious emission standards) were
set, respectively.13
Moreover, the state and territory governments are currently working towards
implementing or adopting standards for wood heaters.

              Not only have there been national
actions to improve the air quality in Australia, but each territory
(jurisdiction) has also been enacting their own laws and strategies to manage it.
For example, the CleanRun Program of Western Australia aims to reduce vehicle
emissions through the use of a remote sensing device (RSD) to determine high
emitting vehicles.14 Also,
the ACT planning strategy of Australia’s capital – Canberra, states that in
order to lower the carbon emissions, Canberra will be investing in sustainable
transport and buildings; there will be a shift from the dependency of motor
vehicle to more environmental options, such as electric cars, walking, cycling,
and the use of the public transport system.15 In
conclusion, Australia is making good progress in controlling air pollution over
the recent years, although they may still need more work on setting national
emission standards, not only from vehicles, but also from factories and mines.

1 http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/air-quality/air-quality-standards

2 http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/air-quality/air-quality-standards

3 http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/fuel-quality/legislation/about-act

4 http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/air-quality/air-quality-standards

5 http://www.nepc.gov.au/system/files/resources/5f9dc9f2-51ca-22c4-7d11-30b7b5f4f826/files/att2tier2prioritisationmethodology200606.pdf

6https://envirojustice.org.au/sites/default/files/files/Submissions%20and%20reports/Envirojustice_air_pollution_report_final.pdf

7https://envirojustice.org.au/sites/default/files/files/Submissions%20and%20reports/Envirojustice_air_pollution_report_final.pdf

8 http://theconversation.com/australia-needs-stricter-rules-to-curb-air-pollution-but-theres-a-lot-we-could-all-do-now-71075

9 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/188756ab-ed94-4a3c-9552-62763ca86a7f/files/national-clean-air-agreement.pdf

10 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/188756ab-ed94-4a3c-9552-62763ca86a7f/files/ncaa-work-plan.pdf

11 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/f190181a-9a4c-4e2f-8144-aad86e5d95ef/files/national-clean-air-agreement-mid-term-review-report.pdf

12 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/f190181a-9a4c-4e2f-8144-aad86e5d95ef/files/national-clean-air-agreement-mid-term-review-report.pdf

13 http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/air-quality/emissions-standards

14 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/f190181a-9a4c-4e2f-8144-aad86e5d95ef/files/national-clean-air-agreement-mid-term-review-report.pdf

15 http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/f190181a-9a4c-4e2f-8144-aad86e5d95ef/files/national-clean-air-agreement-mid-term-review-report.pdf

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