Clean Air Research Program

The Australian Government's Clean Air Research Program (CARP) provided $1.4 million over 2005 – 2008 to support practical research that directly informs national air quality management. CARP addresses some of the major research gaps in the management of air quality in Australia. Its overall objective is to support and facilitate research activities that will underpin policies and management actions to minimise the human health impacts of air pollution.

To meet this objective, CARP provided funding support for quality research that:

  • Has a strong public good focus
  • Is applicable nationally, ie is not specific to a particular region
  • Addresses the impacts of air pollution in Australia by improving our ability to:
    • Understand the major sources and health effects of air pollutants
    • Manage air pollution, particularly in the major population centres
  • Provides decision-makers with the tools and methods necessary for the development of cost-effective and efficient policies and management actions that address the impacts of air pollution
  • Can be readily used by decision-makers for the development of air quality policies and management actions.

A Technical Assessment Panel (TAP), consisting of research and policy experts from government and scientific agencies, assessed project proposals from Australian and New Zealand researchers. Following assessment, 13 projects that best met CARP objectives were selected for funding:

Air pollutant chemistry - implications for source management

Exposure assessment - are we really measuring what we're breathing?

Major sources of air pollution in Australia

Tools to assist in the development of air quality management strategies

A workshop was held in Canberra on 16 October 2008 to present the findings of research funded through CARP. Workshop participants included policy managers and researchers from Australia and New Zealand. The workshop identified a range of research priorities to assist the future management of air quality in Australia. Significant policy issues arising from CARP research include:

  • Climate change is predicted to lead to a significant increase in ozone levels by 2020 and 2050, to the point where current ozone management strategies may not be adequate to meet AAQ NEPM ozone standards. Hospitalizations as a result of ozone exposure are predicted to increase by 200% in 2050 as a result of climate change. New strategies may, therefore, be needed to reduce ozone levels in Australia's major cities.
  • Secondary organic aerosols (SOA) are a significant contributor to urban air pollution, particularly on days where the AAQ NEPM PM standards are not exceeded. Therefore, air quality management actions aimed at reducing PM should take into account emissions of SOA precursors, in addition to primary PM emissions.
  • Biogenic emissions, especially isoprene, are a significant contributor to urban SOA and ozone. However, the exact relationship between biogenic and anthropogenic precursors in forming SOA and ozone is poorly understood.
  • Bioassay analysis determined that the gas component of urban air samples is more toxic than the particle component, and indoor air samples were more toxic than roadside samples for a number of samples. These results challenge current thinking on the impacts of air pollution.
  • Woodheaters are a significantly higher contributor to urban PM pollution than current inventories suggest. The NPI emission factor for woodheaters needs to be revised to reflect this and the Australian/New Zealand Standard test method for woodheaters should also be revised.