Review of national ambient air quality standards


The National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (AAQ NEPM) was established in 1998 under the National Environment Protection Act 1994 (Cwlth) (NEPC Act). It was designed to provide a nationally consistent framework for monitoring and reporting on six common ambient air pollutants. These are, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), photochemical oxidants (ozone or O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and coarse particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5).

The AAQ NEPM sets national air quality standards and goals for each of these pollutants, which local jurisdictions monitor and report against. The AAQ NEPM aims to guide the making of policies that minimise the risk of adverse health impacts from exposure to air pollution.

The AAQ NEPM was varied in 2016 to strengthen particulate matter standards. More information on the particle review including documents and submissions are available on the NEPC website.

These changes have been incorporated into law in Victoria by updating the State Environment Protection Policy (Ambient Air Quality) [SEPP AAQ]. However, in order to pursue continuous improvement in air quality in line with community and local government expectations, Victoria has adopted a more stringent annual average PM10 standard of 20 µg/m3. The standard is consistent with the World Health Organization guidelines and is expected to protect the Victorian community from chronic health effects, especially respiratory conditions. 

Review of the ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide standards in the AAQ NEPM

Victoria is leading work to review the AAQ NEPM O3, NO2 and SO2 standards. The review has considered the scientific evidence on the health effects of these air pollutants and is supported through funding from the Australian Government, with contributions from states and territories.

Understanding the health effects of these pollutants

Ozone (O3) and your health

Ozone gas is formed when nitrogen reacts with air pollutants

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and your health

sources of nirtogen dioxide include motor vehicle exhaust and industry emissions

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and your health

AAQ NEMP SO2 infographic

View the supporting document and make a submission

As part of the review an impact statement, draft revised AAQ NEPM and supporting technical documents have been released for public consultation. Download these from NEPC.  

The public consultation period for the Impact Statement and draft varied measure is now closed. 

Further information about the review and next steps is available on the NEPC website.  

Further work

On 15 December 2015, environment ministers endorsed a National Clean Air AgreementThis will deliver actions to reduce air pollution and establish a process for jurisdictions to work cooperatively in addressing emerging air quality issues. View the updated work plan under the agreement.

Page last updated on 1 Oct 2019