Air quality results overall good but continue to be affected by hazard reduction burning

The 2016 NSW Annual Air Quality Statement will show that while overall NSW air quality continued to be good by international standards, 2016 saw a small increase in the number of days when air pollution spiked above daily national standards compared with 2015.

Hazard reduction burn, Northern Tablelands, August 2016

In Sydney, air quality has met the national daily standard for PM2.5 particles on all but 8 days in 2016. Levels rose above the PM10 daily standard on 7 days. This is an increase of 4 and 5 days respectively compared to 2015.

This increase can be largely attributed to widespread hazard reduction burning during May undertaken to reduce the bushfire risk in NSW.

Other key results include:

  • Annual average PM10 levels remained below the standard at all sites, except Stockton where sea salt spray adds significantly to particle levels.
  • Annual average PM2.5 levels remained below the standard in the Illawarra, Central Coast, Wagga Wagga and most sites in Sydney and Newcastle.
  • Ozone levels were slightly higher in 2016 with 5 days above the standards (compared with 3 in 2015)
  • Other major air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide remain below the Australian standard. Sulphur dioxide exceeded the Australian standard on one occasion in Muswellbrook for a single hour.

At a national level NSW advocated for and now has probably the toughest standards for fine particle pollution in the world. While our air quality currently rates well overall, there are emerging pressures such as population growth and developments in infrastructure and transport which will impact on our air quality in the future. 

The NSW Government is currently calling for comments on the Clean Air for NSW Consultation Paper. This paper sets out how industry, government, community groups and residents can work together to improve air quality in NSW over the next 10 years.

The Clean Air for NSW Consultation Paper proposes a number of priority actions including improving the forecasting and advice during hazard reduction burns and conducting a review of the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Network to improve our understanding of air pollution issues and trends in the long term.

The NSW Annual Air Quality Statement is compiled by scientists at the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The full statement will be available on the OEH website from mid-January.

The community can find out more about local air quality and subscribe to Air Pollution Alerts.