Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has published a new report into air quality in the state.
“Air pollution in Victoria – a summary of our current state of knowledge summarises our current knowledge about air quality, sources, trends and impacts in Victoria,” said Dr Andrea Hinwood, EPA Chief Environmental Scientist.
“The report also outlines the applied science work we will need in future to inform management actions to protect human health and the environment from air pollution.”
Victoria’s air quality has improved significantly over recent decades and is considered good by world standards. However, air pollution remains an important environmental and human health issue. Predictions for a drier, hotter climate, together with projected population increases, pose important challenges to Victoria’s future air quality.
The report also outlines some of the current evidence in relation to air quality and health, and outlines some of the new evidence about exposure to air pollutants and health effects that has emerged in the last few years.
According to the report, air pollution in Victoria comes from a range of natural and anthropogenic sources. Primary pollutants are directly emitted through combustion activities, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and PM2.5 from motor vehicles, or from mechanical processes, such as PM10 in wind-blown dust. Secondary pollutants are produced from chemical reactions between other pollutants in the atmosphere, such as PM2.5 and ozone which is formed from volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides in sunlight.
Since 2009, EPA’s data shows an overall reduction in the number of days when PM10 has exceeded air quality standards. However, in 2017, EPA’s monitoring showed a significant increase in the number days when PM2.5 air quality standards were exceeded. These exceedances were mostly attributed to urban sources, such as wood fire heaters. In most years, smoke from bushfires and planned burns contributed to the majority of PM2.5 exceedances.
Elevated PM2.5 concentrations on cool winter days with still conditions are generally associated with wood fire heaters combined with general urban air pollution from motor vehicles and industry, whereas PM2.5 exceedances on mild, still days with medium humidity are mostly attributable to planned-burn smoke.
Dr Hinwood said the EPA is increasing its capacity to provide air monitoring around the state and providing the community with real time information.
“With the right information and knowledge, we can develop new and innovative ways for government, industry and community to protect the environment from the effects of pollution and waste.”