Sydney Air Quality Study

Improving our understanding of past, current and future air quality in Greater Sydney, and of the impacts of air pollution on public health and the environment.

This multi-year study was started in 2016 by the former Office of Environment and Heritage and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), in collaboration with the NSW Ministry of Health, to improve our understanding of air quality and the impacts of air pollution in the Greater Sydney region.

The study will provide valuable information to government, business and communities on past, current and future air quality and its impacts on public health and the environment in the Greater Sydney region.

The study will support evidence-based air policies and programs by identifying persistent and emerging issues, and highlighting opportunities to improve air quality and realise public health and economic benefits.

Aims of the study

The study will expand the information available to government, business and communities. It aims to:

  • improve our understanding of air quality and the impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment in the Greater Sydney region
  • quantify the contribution of major sources such as motor vehicles, industry and residential wood heating to air pollution and its impacts on health, the environment and the economy
  • evaluate air quality improvements and related health, environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved by implementing clean air actions.

Conducting the study

The study integrates and expands the evidence base to address gaps in our understanding of air quality and its impacts in the Greater Sydney region.

The study draws on data and information from the Sydney Air Quality Monitoring Network, the NSW Greater Metropolitan Regional Air Emissions Inventory, and from research studies such as the Sydney Particle Study and the Sydney Particle Characterisation Study.

A regional airshed model has been established to assess how air quality and population exposures vary across Greater Sydney and to quantify major source contributions to air pollution and exposure. Major sources being modelled include residential wood heaters, motor vehicles, industry, power stations and non-road diesel mobile sources (industrial vehicles and equipment, shipping, locomotives and aircraft).

This model will also be used to project future changes in air quality and related impacts, and to support the quantification of public health and environmental benefits associated with clean air actions.

Study findings

The first study report covering results from the first phase of the study (2017–2019) was released in November 2020. This report discusses how air quality has changed in Greater Sydney over the past two decades. It also includes new insights into the contribution of major sources to air pollution and population exposure in the region.

The next phase of the study will present new findings on the health cost of air pollution. The health burden analysis based on results published in the first report will be finalised in collaboration with NSW Health and the NSW Environment Protection Authority in 2021.