Air quality in Victoria

Good air quality is essential for human health and the environment. Air quality can be poorer in areas with high concentrations of population, transport and industrial activities. Common air pollutants are ozone, particles, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

The most recent monitoring results were included in the 2013 State of the Environment report, and are set out below.

Status and trends in levels of air pollutants

  • Victoria’s air quality has improved significantly over recent decades and remains good by international standards. 
  • Fires and dust storms continue to cause the most severe air pollution events. Some localised problems also occur from the accumulation of urban pollution sources. 
  • Levels of some gaseous pollutants, especially carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides (emitted by cars and trucks), have significantly decreased in Melbourne since 1996. 
  • Levels of particle pollution and visibility reduction have been relatively stable since 1996, except for very high levels during fire and dust events. Particle pollution is the biggest air quality issue in Victoria. Levels of fine particles and ozone do not always meet the objectives set out in Victoria’s ambient air-quality policy.
  • Odour is a major issue in Victoria, with around 4,000 complaints made to the Environment Protection Authority each year.

Complaints to EPA Victoria, 2000 to 2010
Source: EPA Victoria

  • While air quality monitoring is good in Melbourne, regional monitoring is limited.

 

Emissions of major air pollutants by sector

  • Projections show a future net reduction in total vehicle exhaust emissions due to better exhaust controls. In contrast, road dust is expected to increase in line with traffic growth. 
  • Industrial emissions will remain relatively stable over time, although some increases are predicted due to growth in economic activity. Emissions linked to domestic and business activity are expected to grow in line with population growth.

Health impacts of air pollution

Although no recent comprehensive data are available for Victoria, previous studies suggest links between human health and air pollution. Current air pollution levels can cause adverse health impacts. For example, particle pollution can affect young children, the elderly, and people with respiratory and heart conditions. This includes: increased allergic reactions and asthma attacks, increased breathing-related problems, and increased symptoms of existing heart problems.