Atmosphere Theme Report

Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Dr Peter Manins, Environmental Consulting and Research Unit, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06746 9

Urban Air Quality (continued)

Indicators of the condition of air quality (continued)

Benzene in urban areas [A Indicator 3.7]

  • Implications
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    Emissions of benzene to urban airsheds (Figure 108) reported in the NPI for the year 2000 (NPI 2000) appear to underrepresent emissions from motor vehicles (and overrepresent emissions from boating) in south-east Queensland.

    Figure 108: Estimated emissions of non-industrial benzene to urban airsheds 1998 to 1999.

     Estimated emissions of non-industrial benzene to urban airsheds 1998 to 1999

    Source: NPI (2000)

    People who have been heavily exposed to benzene have a small, but definite, increase in the risk of developing certain types of leukaemia.

    The European Union (EU) has set a long-term goal of 1.5 ppb as an annual average. The current UK standard is 5 ppb.

    There have been several short-term studies of benzene concentrations in Australian urban areas that are reviewed by the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria (1999a, 1999b) (Table 22). Longer-term monitoring in Britain indicates an annual cycle with peak benzene concentrations during winter (Dec.) that are about four times as large as those during summer. A similar, though less pronounced, effect occurs in Perth (Figure 109).

    Table 22: Recent and previous measurements of peak values of urban benzene and toluene concentrations in Australia
    Values given in g/m3 have been converted to ppb.
      Benzene (ppb) Toluene (ppb) Location and year Benzene (ppb) Toluene (ppb) Location and year
    Melbourne 14.9 20.2 CBDA 1990 7.9 13.0 CBD 1997
    Sydney 2.6 8.9 1979-1980 2.5 6.9 1992-1993
    Perth 5.0 9.1 Perth Traffic 1993-1994 1.44 2.56 1997-1998
    Brisbane 5.3 10.7 1992 2.7 10.2 1998 maximum
    Adelaide 10.3 11.5 Hindley St 1989 8 37 North Tce 1994

    A CBD, Central business district.

    Source: EPAV (1998b, 1999a, 1999b); DEPWA Annual Report (1999).

    Figure 109: Quarterly average benzene concentrations in Perth (Duncraig).

     Quarterly average benzene concentrations in Perth (Duncraig)

    Source: DEP (2000)


    Except for Perth, there are insufficient long-term benzene data available to be able to specify annual benzene concentrations for Australian cities. Perth would be able to meet the UK standards on benzene (Figure 109), but would not meet the EU goal. There is an ongoing effort to obtain further data and to determine guidelines for air toxics (including benzene) in Australia (Environment Australia 2000b). Some events in Perth and other cities exceed the proposed Victorian (EPAV 2000d) 1 hour design criterion of 11 ppb.