A Clean Air Plan for Sydney: An Overview of the Special Issue on Air Quality in New South Wales

Clare Paton-Walsh, Peter Rayner, Jack Simmons, Sonya L. Fiddes, Robyn Schofield, Howard Bridgman, Stephanie Beaupark, Richard Broome, Scott D. Chambers, Lisa Tzu-Chi Chang, Martin Cope, Christine T. Cowie, Maximilien Desservettaz, Doreena Dominick, Kathryn Emmerson, Hugh Forehead, Ian E. Galbally, Alan Griffiths, Elise-Andree Guerette, Alison HaynesJane Heyworth, Bin Jalaludin, Ruby Kan, Melita Keywood, Khalia Monk, Geoffrey G. Morgan, Hiep Nguyen Duc, Frances Phillips, Robert Popek, Yvonne Scorgie, Jeremy D. Silver, Steve Utembe, Imogen Wadlow, Stephen R. Wilson, Yang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a summary of the key findings of the special issue of Atmosphere on Air Quality in New South Wales and discusses the implications of the work for policy makers and individuals. This special edition presents new air quality research in Australia undertaken by (or in association with) the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes hub, which is funded by the National Environmental Science Program on behalf of the Australian Government's Department of the Environment and Energy. Air pollution in Australian cities is generally low, with typical concentrations of key pollutants at much lower levels than experienced in comparable cities in many other parts of the world. Australian cities do experience occasional exceedances in ozone and PM2.5 (above air pollution guidelines), as well as extreme pollution events, often as a result of bushfires, dust storms, or heatwaves. Even in the absence of extreme events, natural emissions play a significant role in influencing the Australian urban environment, due to the remoteness from large regional anthropogenic emission sources. By studying air quality in Australia, we can gain a greater understanding of the underlying atmospheric chemistry and health risks in less polluted atmospheric environments, and the health benefits of continued reduction in air pollution. These conditions may be representative of future air quality scenarios for parts of the Northern Hemisphere, as legislation and cleaner technologies reduce anthropogenic air pollution in European, American, and Asian cities. However, in many instances, current legislation regarding emissions in Australia is significantly more lax than in other developed countries, making Australia vulnerable to worsening air pollution in association with future population growth. The need to avoid complacency is highlighted by recent epidemiological research, reporting associations between air pollution and adverse health outcomes even at air pollutant concentrations that are lower than Australia's national air quality standards. Improving air quality is expected to improve health outcomes at any pollution level, with specific benefits projected for reductions in long-term exposure to average PM2.5 concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number774
Number of pages37
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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