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
This section reports on the environmental indicators listed below and are defined in Manton and Jasper (1998).
|4.1||Concentration of sulfur dioxide across regional air-sheds|
|4.2||Concentration of particles across regional air-sheds|
|4.3||Concentration of lead across regional air-sheds|
|4.4||Concentration of carbon monoxide across regional air-sheds|
|4.5||Concentration of ozone across regional air-sheds|
|4.6||Concentration of nitrogen dioxide across regional air-sheds|
|4.7||Concentration of fluoride across regional air-sheds|
|4.8||Deposition of dust across regional air-sheds|
|4.9||Concentration of benzene across regional air-sheds|
|4.10||Meteorological conditions that exacerbate air quality problems|
|4.11||Toxic dosage of air pollutants|
|4.12||Occurrence of haze|
|4.13||Occurrence of smoke and fire|
|4.14||Emission of regional air pollutants|
|4.15||Area of national air-sheds monitored for state of the environment reporting|
|4.16||Number of local government bodies which have programs to monitor and regulate air quality|
Australia is a large island continent with no close neighbours. This is a very different situation from the one faced by most other nations, which are either small with several large, close neighbours, or are large but close to highly populated neighbours. As a consequence, Australia has neither the widespread regional air pollution events of European countries, nor those involving transboundary pollution (e.g. between the USA and Canada).
Occurrences of transnational pollution do happen in Australia, probably frequently. It is just that they occur at very low concentrations or at high altitudes. Recent observations off the West Australian coast showed substantial concentrations of aerosol throughout much of the lower atmosphere and over a very broad area, with their origin apparently the Indian subcontinent. Measurements in Melbourne of aerosol from volcanic eruptions in Indonesia show that material can reach a long way south. In addition, observations of smoke originating in Africa are an occasional feature in southern Australia.
Australia has a low population density and people congregate in cities (fewer than 15% of Australians live in rural areas; fewer than 22% live in centres of 75 000 people or less (ABS 2000)). These factors mean that air quality problems tend to arise only in specific airsheds that contain major sources of pollution. In cities, pollutants include particles from industry and motor vehicles, ozone formed from motor vehicle and industrial emissions, and a vast range of pollutants associated with indoor living (see Urban air quality section and the Human Settlements Theme Report).
Rural and regional Australia have different air quality problems. Rural Australia's air pollution issues include wind-blown dust from mining and agricultural work, smoke from fires, agricultural sprays and (likely) indoor air pollution. Regional towns often are located near mining or mineral processing plants and, as a consequence, may experience dust, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, noise and odours.
Table 2 provides information on the overall 'background', 'clean' air (i.e. naturally occurring in the absence of events such as fires) levels of potential air pollutants in regional Australia.
In urban airsheds, the main concern is human health. However, in regional and rural Australia, the health of ecosystems is an additional issue, and pollutants such as ozone and fluoride may be of concern. The effect of agricultural particles and spray drift are also important regional airshed issues, but data on them are scant.
This section discusses most of the Indicators proposed in Manton and Jasper (1998) for regional air quality. The scope 'regional' is taken to include all Australia except the capital cities. Where possible, a pressure-condition-response-implications model is followed, recognising that several of the proposed Indicators are actually descriptive of more than one type. An Indicator about regional air pollutants [A Indicator 4.14] is addressed in the discussions of individual pollutants, the toxic dosage of air pollutants Indicator [A Indicator 4.11] is not specifically addressed because of lack of data (but see Urban air quality) and the Indicator about the area of national airsheds monitored for State of Environment reporting [A Indicator 4.15] is covered in Urban air quality. A list of Indicators is included at the beginning of this section. The overall findings and implications are presented at the end of the section.