The Department of Planning and Environment is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities for the operation and maintenance of various air quality instrumentation (accreditation number 14209). Where applicable, Standards Australia methods for ambient air monitoring are used. Technical information about the sampling methods and the analytical techniques used in air monitoring programs is outlined below for the major pollutants we measure.
Except for the rural NSW network stations, which use low cost indicative monitors, Australian Standard methods listed below are used within the department’s air quality monitoring network.
Why we monitor air pollution
The standards for ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and air particles (PM2.5 and PM10) are set by the National Environment Protection Council.
See Standards and goals for more information.
How we monitor
Indicative monitoring is not formally defined in Australia. It is defined in the UK and this text uses terminologies based on the UK definitions.
Air quality instruments can be grouped into 4 classes: certified reference, certified equivalent, certified indicative, and indicative. The main difference is accuracy and repeatability of measurements and the cost of purchase and operation.
Although they are not certified for monitoring for legislative purposes, indicative and certified indicative monitors are very useful in reporting current air quality to the community. In New South Wales, 2 such instruments are used widely to measure air quality:
- indicative particle monitors across the Rural Air Quality Network
- certified indicative monitors used to report visibility across the Greater Metropolitan Region and Regional Air Quality Networks
Most of these instruments minimise the impact of fog by heating the air before measurement to evaporate water droplets. Air particles arising from smoke and dust are still measured.
Air pollutants are measured by a variety of techniques, most involving drawing sample air into the analyser and determining the concentration of the pollutant in the air.