Australian Air Quality Trends to Watch for in 2024

Clear view of Australian air quality

Australian air quality ranks highly compared to the rest of the world.

So, how did Australia do it? 

Well, it took several decades of air quality monitoring, research, and policymaking. And it doesn’t stop there. The country is also continuously innovating and exploring ways to improve their air quality. 

In this article, we delve into the history of air quality in Australia and current air quality trends to understand how it reached its current air quality status. 

We’re always interacting with our PurpleAir Community to provide help and support to anyone who wants to improve their local air quality. Together, we’re cultivating a community and empowering members with the data they need to tackle air pollution all over the world. 

History of Air Quality in Australia  

Air quality in Australia is known to be one of the best in the world. In fact, an air quality study found that its particulate matter pollution concentrations met the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines. However, Australia did not reach this status overnight.  

Below is a brief history of air quality in Australia: 

  • Before 1992: There was no singular national standard. Each Territory Government of Australia had its own air quality monitoring systems, policies, and regulations. 
  • 1992: The Territory Governments agreed to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Environment, which allowed the establishment of national air quality standards. 
  • 1998: Because there was no integral air quality data, it was only in 1998 that the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) was able to set the national standards to measure air pollutants. It was called the National Environment Protection Ambient Air Quality Measure (AAQ NEPM) and it monitored six pollutants: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, lead, and coarse particulate matter (PM10). 
  • 2003: As air quality technology and research advanced, the Australian government recognized the dangers of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and included it in the advisory air quality reporting. 
  • 2015: Previous air quality policies did not require action when a region or industry violated the set standards. So, the Australian government established the National Clean Air Agreement, which helped the government act against air pollution and improve air quality. 
  • 2019-2020: Australia experienced one of its worst air quality incidents when bushfires raged for several months. It exposed more than 437,000 people to harmful levels of air quality, and resulted in an estimated 171 deaths due to short-term exposure to PM2.5. 
  • 2020: In light of the bushfire incident, the Australian government updated its air quality index to report hourly instead of daily. 

Primary Sources of Air Pollution in Australia  

While air pollution has declined significantly in the past decades, Australia is still working to reduce its air pollution further. To date, their major sources of air pollution are: 

  • Wood burning. Many homes in Australia rely on wood to heat their homes during winter. Unfortunately, wood burning releases high levels of particulate matter and other pollutants. 
  • Vehicle Emissions. Cars and trucks are the second largest source of nitrogen dioxide in Australia. They’re also a significant source of PM2.5, ozone, and petrochemical smog. 
  • Mining and Industrial Activities. These include coal and metal mining, oil refineries, natural gas extraction, and coal-fired power plants. All of which release high levels of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, and other toxic pollutants into the air. 
  • Natural Sources. Bush fires and dust storms are other major causes of air pollution in Australia. 

Recent Air Quality Trends in Australia   

Air quality research found that improving air quality in Australia by five percent can save 360 lives. So, what is Australia doing to mitigate pollution?  

Here are four Australian air quality trends. 

#1 - Research into Australia’s Pollution Hotspots 

More research on the disparity of air pollution in Australia is surfacing. For instance, The Guardian published a special feature delving into the communities that experience the worst air pollution in Australia. Hopefully, with these newfound air quality studies, the government can enact more effective policies and regulations that promote environmental justice in the entire country. 

#2 - FIFA Women’s World Cup Green Stadiums 

For the first time in FIFA history, the women’s world tournament will be held in venues that have passed the green building regulations. All the ten stadiums across Australia and New Zealand have met the Green Building Council’s Green Star or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS). This bodes well for air quality as it proves that it is possible to construct large-scale venues that are both sustainable and emit less air pollution. 

#3 - More Australian Air Quality Projects 

Australia’s national air quality policies and monitoring systems are still quite young. As such, local governments are starting their own air quality projects to strengthen their policies and initiatives. One such project is the Cadia Valley Monitoring Program, which aims to build a robust air quality network so that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) can ensure that air quality regulations are being followed and upheld. 

#4 - Air Quality Groups

Community Scientists are acting on their own air quality. Australian air quality groups are building their air quality networks using low-cost air quality monitors like PurpleAir. They use this to monitor their air quality, study the air quality trends in their communities, and start conversations with the government to improve air quality policies. 

Air quality in Australia is one of the best in the world due to factors like its policies and regulations, advanced air quality technology, and active community. Through this, communities and countries can find ideas and inspiration to raise the air quality in their area. 

Get Involved Yourself  

At PurpleAir, there are tons of community projects going on around the world. We’re thrilled to see these kinds of collaborative efforts, and we look forward to seeing plenty more in the future. Are you working on a community project with PurpleAir’s air quality monitors 

We would love to hear about it. Share a post in the Community Project forum, so we can highlight your work. Together, we can make air quality accessible for everyone.