Managing air quality

The EPA aims to ensure NSW air quality meets or is better than national and international standards, through legislation, monitoring, guidelines and strategies.

  • Air quality in NSW is generally good by international standards and has been steadily improving.
  • Concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO), lead, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) are all consistently below national air quality standards set in the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (Ambient Air Quality NEPM) in most areas.
  • Concentrations of ozone (O3) in urban areas and particles (PM10 and PM2.5) in both rural and urban areas can sometimes be above national standards.

Air quality is consistently a key environmental issue for NSW residents, as shown in the latest Who cares about the environment in 2015?

Between 2012 and 2015, the EPA led a review of the Ambient Air Quality NEPM. The result was the adoption of the most stringent national standards for fine particles in the world.

Environment Ministers from all states and territories agreed to vary the Ambient Air Quality NEPM to

  • adopt an annual-average standard of 8 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) and a 24-hour standard of 25 μg/m3 for PM2.5 fine particles
  • initiate a nationally consistent approach to reporting population exposure to PM2.5
  • include an annual average standard for PM10 particles of 25 μg/m3
  • replace the five-day exceedance rule of the PM10 standard with an ‘exceptional events rule’ which also applies to the 24-hour PM2.5 standard
  • initiate a nationally consistent approach to reporting population exposure to PM2.5.

Under review are

  • reporting standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and ozone (O3)
  • Ambient Air Quality NEPM monitoring protocols

Find out more about

  • EPA's NSW State of the Environment 2018: Air Quality provides a comprehensive report on ambient air quality and sources of air emissions.
  • The air emissions inventory provides a detailed account of the major natural and human-made sources of air pollution in the NSW greater metropolitan region (GMR). The GMR covers 57,330 km2 and includes the greater Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong regions where about 75% of the NSW population lives.
  • The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) operates a comprehensive air quality monitoring network. Information is updated hourly online.

As part of its role, the EPA works to reduce air emissions from premises it licenses. The LBL scheme and pollution reduction programs support industries in reducing air pollutant emissions, such as oxides of nitrogen, particles, volatile organic compounds, chlorine, dioxins, furans and heavy metals which arise from industrial activities and plant. 

Some major EPA initiatives underway

Diagram showing vapour recovery at a service station

The graphic shows ways in which Stage 1 Vapour Recovery reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds from petrol.

Working with other agencies and local communities enables the EPA to make more informed decisions. The EPA values the knowledge state agencies, local government, representative groups and local communities bring to the content and direction of policies and strategies.

The EPA regularly works with

The Local Government Air Quality toolkit provides local councils with information on

  • the sources and impacts of air pollution
  • the regulatory framework for protecting air quality in NSW
  • air quality management procedures and technologies


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