​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 Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) monitor ambient air quality across NSW, in regional as well as metropolitan areas. Hourly updates of current air quality are available on the DPIE 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.

Air quality in NSW is described by Air Quality Categories (AQCs) and the levels of air pollution for each AQC is described on Understanding air quality data .

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 Department of Environment and Energy. ​​​​

Current as at: Friday 8 July 2022
Contact page owner: Environmental Health