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 supports evidence-based air policies and programs by identifying persistent and emerging issues and highlighting opportunities to improve air quality for public health and economic benefits.

Aims of the study

The study expands the information available to government, business and communities by:

  • improving our understanding of air quality and the impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment in the Greater Sydney region

  • quantifying 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

  • evaluating air quality improvements and related health, environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved by implementing clean air actions.

Conducting the study

The study addresses gaps in our understanding of air quality and its impacts in the NSW Greater Metropolitan region.

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

An air quality modelling framework has been established to assess how air quality and population exposures vary across Greater Sydney, quantifying major source contributions to air pollution and exposure. Major sources modelled include:

  • residential wood heaters
  • motor vehicles
  • industry
  • power stations
  • non-road diesel mobile (industrial vehicles and equipment, shipping, locomotives and aircraft)
  • domestic–commercial sources (domestic activities).

Study findings

The first study report – Air quality study for the NSW greater metropolitan region, 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 included insights into the contribution of major sources to air pollution and population exposure in the region.

The second study report – Sydney air quality study: Stage 2 – Health impact assessment, released in February 2023 – includes new findings from a health impact assessment, which provides a quantitative estimate of the levels of people’s health burden from air pollutants. The research was finalised in collaboration with NSW Health and the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

What are we doing to protect people across New South Wales? 

In early 2022, the NSW Government released the NSW Clean air strategy 2021–30, which outlines a whole-of-government approach to improve air quality and health outcomes for people who live and work in cities and regions across New South Wales.

The strategy sets out 5 priority action areas to mitigate community exposure to poor air quality: better preparedness for pollution events, cleaner industry, cleaner transport, engines and fuels, healthier households and better places.