What should our national air pollution standards look like?
Stronger Standards for Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
We are calling for Australia’s 24-hour standard for sulfur dioxide to be brought into line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 7.6 parts per billion (ppb).
Stronger standards for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
We are calling for Australia’s annual average standard for nitrogen dioxide to be set at 9ppb. While there is no known safe threshold for nitrogen dioxide – more than 9ppb of nitrogen dioxide can cause illness such as asthma and affect lung and brain development in children.
Better air pollution monitoring requirements
We’re urging ministers to expand air monitoring networks to better monitor community exposure to major sources of air pollution. Air quality standards should protect people wherever they live, especially those close to coal-fired power stations and major roadways. All air pollution monitoring data should be publicly available so people know what they are breathing.
Health effects of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
NO2 and SO2 contribute to significant health issues, especially for kids, pregnant women and unborn children, elderly people and people with chronic disease. SO2 increases the rate and severity of asthma. It can also reduce infant birth weight and increase cardiovascular and respiratory mortality and hospital admissions. NO2 worsens allergies and asthma and decreases lung function, even at low concentrations. Health experts recommend stricter standards to protect communities.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
Low levels of nitrogen dioxide can irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs and lead to coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness and nausea. Exposure can also result in a build-up of fluid in the lungs for 1-2 days after exposure. Breathing high levels of nitrogen dioxide can cause rapid burning, spasms and swelling of tissues in the throat and upper respiratory tract, reduced oxygenation of tissues, a build-up of fluid in the lungs, and even death.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
Exposure of the eyes to liquid sulfur dioxide (for example in an industrial accident) can cause severe burns, resulting in the loss of vision. On the skin it produces burns. If breathed, it can cause headaches, general discomfort and anxiety. People with impaired heart or lung function and asthmatics are at increased risk. Repeated or prolonged exposure to moderate concentrations may cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, wheezing and lung damage. It has also proved to be harmful to the reproductive systems of animals and caused developmental changes in their newborn.