Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Air - NSW overview

About air quality

Tracking community attitudes, air quality and emissions

Who Cares About the Environment?

In Who Cares About the Environment in 2012?, EPA community research has consistently found air quality to be a key environmental issue for NSW residents.

This short video is about air quality in NSW and in particular the Hunter Valley region. It provides an overview of air quality with information on emissions and where they come from, air quality monitoring, particulate matter and its effects on health and well-being.

Air quality in NSW is generally good by international standards and has been steadily improving over time. Current and Projected Air Quality in NSW shows that ambient 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) for these pollutants in most areas. However, concentrations of ozone (O3) in urban areas and particles (PM10 and PM2.5), in both rural and urban areas can exceed national standards.

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) operates a comprehensive air quality monitoring network to provide the community with accurate and up-to-date information about air quality. Data from the monitoring network is presented online as ambient concentrations and air quality index (AQI) values which are updated hourly and stored in a database. The database provides 1-hour, 4-hour, 8-hour, 24-hour, monthly and annual data. Anyone may access the database using online search tools.

Air quality monitoring maps Graph depicting air quality values

You can either view updated hourly ambient concentrations, AQI values or search and download historical air quality data where you live.

Sources of air emissions

NOx and VOC are photochemical smog precursors and when emitted in the presence of sunlight they undergo a series of complex reactions that cause photochemical smog to form. Ground-level ozone is an indicator of photochemical smog, which is characterised by a white atmospheric haze during the warmer months of the year.

PM10 and PM2.5 emissions are responsible for primary particulate matter pollution, which is characterised by a brown atmospheric haze during the cooler months of the year. NOx, VOC, SO2 and ammonia react in the atmosphere to form secondary organic aerosols, nitrate and sulfate compounds, which are collectively known as secondary particulate matter pollution. Fine particulate matter pollution is made up of both primary emissions and secondary organic and inorganic aerosols, which are formed through atmospheric reactions.

Population distribution by local government area in the Greater Metropolitan Region Diagram showing various sources of pollution and where they affect the environment

The air emissions inventory provides a detailed snapshot of the major sources of air pollution in the NSW greater metropolitan region (GMR).

State of the environment

Chapter 8 - Air Quality (PDF 548KB) of the New South Wales State of the Environment 2015 provides a comprehensive report on ambient air quality and sources of air emissions.

Air quality guidelines, technical reports and research publications


Technical reports

  • Air Emissions Inventory for the Greater Metropolitan Region (GMR) in NSW is a detailed listing of pollutants discharged into the atmosphere from natural and human-made sources. The GMR covers 57,330 km2 and includes the greater Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong regions where about 75% of the NSW population resides.
  • Current and Projected Air Quality in NSW summarises ambient air quality trends from 1994 to 2009. It also presents the results of airshed computer modelling of possible emission reduction scenarios to meet the standards for ground-level ozone) in Sydney.
  • State of Knowledge: Ozone (PDF 7.4MB) provides information about ozone events in NSW from 1994 to 2004.

Research publications

Page last updated: 03 August 2016