Air toxics and indoor air quality in Australia

State of knowledge report
Environment Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4739 4

Foreword by the Minister

The quality of the air we breathe is an ongoing priority for the Commonwealth Government. While Australia has a reputation for clean air and we compare well with many industrial nations, air pollution is a major and growing concern in many of our cities and towns. To protect both human health and that of our environment, Australian Governments are working to develop a national approach to the management of air toxics in both the ambient and indoor environments. The State Of Knowledge Report on Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality represents an important step towards that national approach.

The report has been prepared by Environment Australia, in cooperation with the States and Territories, as a major element of the Living Cities – Air Toxics Program. It brings together, for the first time, a broad range of information on air toxics and indoor air quality into a single volume. The report highlights the air toxics of greatest concern in Australia and discusses their sources and health effects. It includes data on levels of air toxics in Australia and examines management of air toxics in Australia and overseas. This consolidation of knowledge provides a sound reference for the community and a basis for informed community debate on management options to address air toxics and indoor air quality issues.

In 1998, as Chairman of the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) of Environment Ministers, I had the honour of announcing the establishment of Australia's first national air quality standards to apply in all States and Territories. These air quality standards are contained in the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for Ambient Air Quality and cover the six major atmospheric pollutants (nitrogen dioxide, particles, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and lead).

During the finalisation of the Ambient Air Quality NEPM the community raised legitimate concerns about the need to address a broader range of air quality issues. Responding to the concerns, the Commonwealth Government is committed to working with State and Territory Governments, community and industry groups to develop a national approach. The State of Knowledge Report is a product of that commitment, recognising that informed discussion on management options requires an agreed understanding of the problem at hand.

The next step is to develop preferred management options. These options will be best developed and evaluated in open consultation, preferably under a NEPC process. Ultimately the effective implementation of any management strategies will be a shared responsibility of all government jurisdictions.

I thank all those individuals and organisations that have submitted material or commented on earlier drafts of the State of Knowledge Report. Your efforts have been appreciated and contributed significantly to the quality of this final report.

I welcome comments on issues covered by the State of Knowledge Report.

Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment and Heritage


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