​Outdoor air is often referred to as ambient air. The common sources of outdoor air pollution are emissions caused by combustion processes from motor vehicles, solid fuel burning and industry. Other pollution sources include smoke from bushfires, windblown dust, and biogenic emissions from vegetation (pollen and mould spores).

The most common air pollutants of ambient air include:

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) monitor ambient air quality across NSW, in regional as well as metropolitan areas. Hourly and daily updates of current air quality data are displayed as the air quality index and available on the OEH website. In metropolitan areas (greater Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong regions), the main air pollutants of concern are ozone (O3) and particles (particulate matter or PM). For regional areas in NSW, particle pollution is the main concern.

The basics of the air quality index are explained in our section Air quality index. For more information on air quality, the air quality index and monitoring in NSW, please visit the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment.

In 1998, the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) developed the Ambient Air Quality National Environment Protection Measure (AAQ NEPM), which provides air quality standards for the most common air pollutants. The standards were designed to be measured at specific locations in order to give an average representation of air quality and general population exposure for an area. They do not apply for monitoring areas adjacent to individual sources (such as an industrial facility) where peak concentrations may be expected. Since then, jurisdictions have put strategies in place to reduce emissions in order to achieve the standards. Formal compliance reports started in 2002 on an annual basis for all states and territories. For more information on the AAQ NEPM, please visit the website: Department of Environment and Energy. ​​​​

Current as at: Wednesday 18 December 2019
Contact page owner: Environmental Health