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Importance of Clean Air

What Affects Air Quality

Air quality is influenced by several factors, including emissions from transport and industry, wood smoke through the use of wood heaters and fires (for example, controlled burns and bushfires), usage of home appliances (for example, barbeques and petrol-fueled gardening tools), dust and pollen. In Australia, the types of air pollutants, specific pollutant substances, and the general sources of these substances are described in Australia State of the Environment 2021. Air pollution occurs when concentrations of airborne gases and particles become high enough and persist long enough to cause adverse effects on people, plants, animals and property.

Global urbanisation and industrialisation, due to population growth and developing economies, will increase the variety and loads of air pollutants. This, along with climate change, is likely to escalate the risk of impacts on air quality and human health.

Air quality can also be impacted by climate and weather processes. Dryer and hotter weather conditions are likely to increase the risk of dust especially for regional and remote communities. Wind will transport pollutants to other areas from where they were produced, and rain droplets will remove pollutants from the air.

Both individual pollutants and the mix of them may have effects. For example, sulfur and nitrogen compounds combine in the atmosphere forming acidic substances that may impact the health of humans, acidify soil and water, and damage buildings and other structures. Nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level ozone formation and can also be responsible for excessive growth of aquatic plants and oxygen depletion of waterbodies, reducing the water quality and health of aquatic ecosystems.

Monitoring Air Quality in SA

Monitoring is undertaken by the EPA to provide information about the quality of our air. The EPA currently operates 7 monitoring stations in metropolitan Adelaide and a further 3 stations in the regional centres of Port Pirie (1) and Whyalla (2) for various pollutants. These stations continuously measure primary gases including ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), as well as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). These pollutants are reported live on the EPA website. The EPA also monitors lead in air at Port Pirie. Monitoring undertaken by the EPA primarily reflects ambient concentrations of pollutants in the airshed, which are emitted from a number of sources, with the exception of SO2 and lead in Port Pirie that are mainly emitted from the Port Pirie smelter.

When required, the EPA also conducts shorter-term monitoring, as was recently undertaken in Marino, Lonsdale and Hallett Cove for dust, Victoria Road for traffic emissions and Mount Barker for wood smoke from heaters. Additional monitoring stations would assist with understanding the extent of air quality across the state and impacts on air quality from various sources of pollutants, particularly in regional areas where dust and smoke are likely to become more of a risk with climate change.

Locations of EPA air quality monitoring stations (EPA)
Christies Beach EPA Air Quality Monitoring Station
Christies Beach EPA air quality monitoring station