Air Quality Health Advice Portal

This page includes information about air quality in the ACT, including health advice related to specific pollutants that are measures in the ACT, as well as health advice related to pollen.

Current public health alerts

Current public health alerts can be found here.

Current air quality

Air quality raw data for ozone, CO, NO2, PM10  and PM2.5 ­can be found on the Air Quality in the ACT page. You can also find information about each pollutant and how it is measured on the monitoring pages.

Particulate matter PM2.5

The table below shows the hourly rolling averages for PM 2.5 at the Canberra air quality monitoring stations by health categories. Go to the next section to find the current health and activity advice for PM2.5.

Health and activity advice for particulate matter PM2.5

The health and activity advice below is based on air quality health categories for PM2.5. Simply match the current air quality colour rating (above) to the colour in the table below to find the current health and activity advice for PM2.5. PM2.5 levels can change rapidly, depending on the source and weather patterns.

During bushfire season, read the advice for smoky air page for more health advice about smoky air, and be sure to check the ACT Emergency Services Agency website for information about fire ratings, fire bans and bushfire events.

Background on PM2.5 Health Advice

  • Australian State and Territory Governments are working together to produce nationally consistent health advice for the key air pollutants that are of concern to the health of Australians.  This webpage will be updated as these categories are agreed to.  The first pollutant with agreed categories is PM2.5, which is the main pollutant of concern during bushfire events.
  • From December 2020 ACT Health implemented air quality categories for particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) that correspond to nationally agreed health and activity advice. From December 2020, ACT Health now provides health advice for PM2.5 ­based on hourly rolling averages. Hourly averages correlate closely to current levels of PM2.5 in the air.

Category

General health advice and recommended actions

 

Sensitive groups

includes

  • people with a heart or lung condition, including asthma
  • people over the age of 65
  • infants and children
  • pregnant women

Everyone else

Good

No change needed to your normal outdoor activities.

No change needed to your normal outdoor activities.

Fair

Reduce outdoor physical activity if you develop symptoms like cough or shortness of breath.

Consider closing windows and doors until outdoor air quality is better.

Follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor.

If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

No change needed to your normal outdoor activities.

 

 

Poor

Avoid outdoor physical activity if you develop symptoms like cough or shortness of breath.

When indoors, close windows and doors until outdoor air quality is better.

Follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor.

If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

Reduce outdoor physical activity if you develop symptoms like cough or shortness of breath.

Very poor

Stay indoors as much as possible with windows and doors closed until outdoor air quality is better.

If you feel that the air in your home is uncomfortable, consider going to a place with cleaner air (such as an air-conditioned building like a library or shopping centre) if it is safe to do so.

Actively monitor symptoms and follow any treatment plan recommended by your doctor.

If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

Avoid outdoor physical activity if you develop symptoms like cough or shortness of breath.

When indoors, close windows and doors until outdoor air quality is better.

If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

Extremely poor

Stay indoors with windows and doors closed until outdoor air quality is better and reduce indoor activity.

If you feel that the air in your home is uncomfortable, consider going to a place with cleaner air (such as an air-conditioned building like a library or shopping centre) if it is safe to do so.

Actively monitor symptoms and follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor.

If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

Stay indoors as much as possible with windows and doors closed until outdoor air quality is better.

If you feel that the air in your home is uncomfortable, consider going to a place with cleaner air (such as an air-conditioned building like a library or shopping centre) if it is safe to do so.

If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

If you use AirRater, which tells you PM2.5 concentrations in the ACT, you will note an extra category that is not included in the ACT health categories will sometimes show up that is in between the ACT Health category of ‘good’ and ‘fair’. This extra category shows up in AirRater when PM 2.5 concentrations are between 11 – 25 uq/m3.  When concentrations are in this level, there is no specific health advice that is required.  However, it may be an indication that air quality is changing.  It may be beginning to get worse, so you may like to keep an eye on conditions, especially if you are more sensitive to the effects of PM2.5. On the other hand, if the air quality has been much worse and it is now improving, it may be a good time to open and air out your house.

Pollen

If you would like to see the grass pollen count for today and the forecast for the next 6 days, visit the Canberra Pollen Count and Forecast Service. You can also download the AirRater app This free app provides users with up-to-date information on total pollen (including tree and grass pollens), smoke pollution and temperature in the ACT. Please note that pollen levels may vary between AirRater and the Canberra Pollen Count and Forecast Service from time to time. These differences arise because AirRater measures total pollens and Canberra Pollen Count and Forecast Service measures grass pollen only.

Health advice for pollen and thunderstorm asthma

Please see the pollen allergy page.

    Health and activity advice for ozone

    Exposure to elevated levels of ozone increases inflammation in the body, including inflammation in the airways and can cause damage to the lining of the airways.  This can lower lung function (making it feel difficult to breath), increase airway hyper-responsiveness (a feature of asthma) and decrease clearance of infections from the lungs.  All these things make people more likely to have respiratory symptoms, like coughing, throat irritation, and chest tightness, when they are exposed to ozone.

    Ozone affects all people, including healthy people.  However, some people are more sensitive to ozone exposure than others, including people who have existing lung conditions, children, and people over the age of 65.

    Ozone levels are more likely to be elevated  during the summer, particularly on hot days in the afternoon and early evening.  On very hot days when ozone levels are likely to be higher in the afternoon and early evening, even healthy people should try to plan their more vigorous exercise for the morning, if possible.

    If you are sensitive to the effects of ozone or you have an underlying respiratory condition, make sure you have an asthma or COPD action plan with your general practitioner; take your preventer medications and reliever medications as prescribed.

    If you are concerned about symptoms call the 24-hour HealthDirect helpline on 1800 022 222 or see your doctor.

    If you or anyone in your care has trouble breathing or tightness in the chest or in a health emergency, call 000 for an ambulance.

    Page last updated on: 10 Aug 2021