Particle air pollution in New South Wales is getting worse, with the annual averages for both fine and coarse particle pollution higher in 2018 than in 2017.
Coarse particles exceeded the annual standard at nine locations, up from 2 locations in 2017 and none in previous years. All but one of these locations are in the Hunter Region.
Fine particles, which cause the most serious health problems, exceeded the annual standard at 14 locations, up from 4 to 6 locations over the previous 4 years.
The average value for fine particles (PM2.5) across comparable monitors rose from 7.51 µg/m3 in 2017 to 7.98 µg/m3 in 2018. This is moving away from the stated national objective that all sites should be below 7 µg/m3 by 2025.
Existing NSW policies on air pollution are failing to protect public health, and the resulting health problems will only get worse over time if this trend is allowed to continue. Readily available regulatory responses could reduce pollution from coal fired power stations, vehicles, industry, and wood fired heaters.
The following steps would reverse the trend of deteriorating air quality (appreciating that not all sources of air pollution are under human control):
Modernise coal power station licenses to require capture of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
Pollution checks to remove high air pollution emitting vehicles from our roads.
Higher fees for the existing Load Based Licensing system for industry, that reflect the health costs imposed on the community by air pollution.
Restrictions on the installation or use of wood fired heaters in urban areas. Urgent research should be conducted to identify the sources of air pollution that are increasing.