ACT Air Quality Monitoring

Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) monitoring is undertaken in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to both support both the National Environment Protection Measures (NEPM) and an Air Quality Index (AQI) to better communicate the ambient air quality to the ACT Community.

The ACT Government monitors pollutants and reports against national standards. These standards, as well as further information about each pollutant and their health effects, are available on the Department of the Environment and Energy website.

ACT Health, through the Health Protection Service (HPS), is the agency responsible for maintaining and providing Ambient Air Quality data from Performance Monitoring Stations (PMS) to the Environment Protection Authority Inspectorate (EPA Inspectorate).

The EPA Inspectorate is responsible for providing the ACT Ambient Air Quality NEPM annual report to the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994.

ACT Health completed a pilot study on the chemical composition and sources of particulate matter in the ACT. The study summary and technical report are accessible below.

Airborne Particulate Matter Pollution in the Australian Capital Territory

Chemical Composition and Source Contribution Analyses of Fine and Course Airborne Particulate Matter in the ACT Summary

Canberra Arboretum image

How is Air Quality Measured?

ACT Health operates the Territory's air quality monitoring network, which comprises two NEPM Performance Monitoring Stations (PMS) in Monash and Florey, and a smaller station in Civic. The Monash PMS is approximately 300 metres west of Cockcroft Avenue and the Florey PMS is in Neumann Place.

ACT Health monitors carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), photochemical oxidants as ozone (O3), particulate matter less than 10 micrometres (PM10) and particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).

PM10 and PM2.5 are the pollutants of most concern in the ACT. Elevated levels of particulate matter can arise, for example, in colder months due to wood smoke emitted from the use of wood heaters. They may also occur from bushfire and burn-off events in and around the ACT.

Photochemical oxidants, such as ozone, are generally not directly emitted. They are formed by the reaction of pollutants in the atmosphere. Ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides react with a group of air pollutants known as Reactive Organic Compounds (ROC) in the presence of sunlight.

Emissions from motor vehicles are the primary source of carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen pollution in the ACT.

Due to a lack of heavy industry the ACT does not monitor sulfur dioxide for the NEPM. following the phase out of leaded fuel on 1 January 2002, the ACT ceased monitoring lead in July 2002.