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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

19 August 1999

NATIONAL AIRWATCH PROGRAM TAKES-OFF


Australia is a country with significant asthma problems and haze is not altogether unknown above our fair city. To help raise awareness about the harmful effects of air pollution, Melbourne school students are taking part in the Federal Government's National AirWatch Program.

Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, said her visit to Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College today, one of Melbourne's leading AirWatch schools, aimed to raise awareness about air pollution and help primary and secondary schools learn more about its causes and effects.

"Next week is Airwatch National Monitoring Week and we are hoping to encourage schools around Australia to join this practical and educational program," Dr Stone said.

"Through Airwatch we want to encourage students to start thinking globally about environmental issues like air pollution and what they can do locally, at school, in the community and at home, to help."

Approximately 100 schools, most in capital and major regional cities, are currently taking part in the program.

Participating AirWatch students conduct surveys and collect air quality and weather data, which is then entered into a national database. Students can then share their results and ideas with other schools around Australia.

"AirWatch is an exciting program because it gives students a 'hands-on' approach to science, which complements classroom lessons. It also helps students to understand more about our fragile environment and the harmful effects of air pollution," Dr Stone said.

AirWatch Monitoring activities include:
  • household surveys such as monitoring care usage and travel patterns,
  • sampling particle levels to determine carbon concentration,
  • collecting nitrogen dioxide samples to determine concentration levels,
  • conducting visual air quality tests, and
  • measuring weather conditions.
"Pascoe Vales Girls' has a marvellous scientific set-up, with a weather station on the roof and outdoor air pump, which are used to collect data. The data collected is then analysed in the chemistry lab and entered onto the national website," Dr Stone said.

"The school's innovative approach to environmental studies has also led to the introduction of a practical water quality testing project at a nearby creek, and the establishment of a 120 strong science club this year."

Airwatch is funded through the Federal Government's $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust.

To find out more about the National AirWatch Program contact the National Coordinator, Margot Finn, on telephone 03 9239 4667 or visit the AirWatch website at www.airwatch.mrwa.wa.gov.au.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia