former Standing Council on Environment and Water

(incorporating the National Environment Protection Council)

EPHC Archive - Ambient Air Quality NEPM

On 13 December 2013, COAG replaced its 22 Standing Councils, Select Councils and governance fora with a set of eight Councils and the decision saw the revocation of the Standing Council on Environment and Water. Work is currently underway to resolve how its existing work would be handled in the future. In the interim, this website is currently maintained for historical purposes and is scheduled for archiving.

A new website for the National Environment Protection Council is being developed.

Caution: archived content

Information previously available on the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) website ( is listed in this archive. These pages are no longer being maintained or updated but remain here as an archive for your information.

What's currently happening

For current information about the Ambient Air Quality NEPM see:

In June 1998, the NEPC made the Ambient Air Quality NEPM which set uniform standards for ambient air quality. The standards in the NEPM for ambient air quality are listed below. In 2003 the NEPM was varied to add an advisory reporting standard for PM2.5.

Please note that ambient air does not include indoor air.

Annual reporting

The Ambient Air Quality NEPM requires each participating jurisdiction to submit a report on PM2.5 monitoring and data assessment to Council by 30 June next following each reporting year.  A reporting year is defined in the NEPM as a year ending on 31 December.

Ambient Air Quality NEPM Review - Air Quality Standards Discussion Paper - 2010

Monitoring plans

Jurisdictional monitoring plans are approved by Environment ministers under a ministerial agreement established by NEPC. Links to jurisdiction's monitoring plans are listed below:

Peer Review Committee Technical Papers

The Peer Review Committee developed a set of guidance papers that clarify technical issues in interpretation of the Ambient Air Quality NEPM protocol. These Technical Papers provide the basis for Peer Review Committee assessment of jurisdictional plans, aimed at assuring the quality and national consistency of NEPM monitoring.

The PRC Technical Papers are advisory for jurisdictions, and they evolve with time as the science of air quality monitoring and assessment develops and as practical experience with monitoring increases.

PM2.5 Equivalence Program

When the variation to the Ambient Air Quality NEPM was made in 2003 to incorporate advisory reporting standards for PM2.5, provision was made for a program to determine whether manual gravimetric methods of monitoring PM2.5 and continuous methods (such as the TEOM) can be considered equivalent. The reference method for monitoring PM2.5 is the manual gravimetric method. The TEOM does not have reference or equivalence status through the USEPA designations for monitoring of PM2.5 due to issues related with loss of volatiles.

All jurisdictions are now monitoring PM2.5 using the designated reference method for sampling.

The findings of these collocation studies will be used to determine the appropriate method(s) for PM2.5 monitoring under the NEPM.

Risk assessment and standard setting

When the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) made the NEPM for Ambient Air Quality in 1998, it established the Risk Assessment Taskforce (RATF) to investigate the potential for the use of risk assessment in the NEPC context, particularly in relation to ambient air quality standards.

The membership of the RATF was drawn from State and Commonwealth agencies, industry, and the conservation movement. It was chaired by the NEPC Executive Officer.

The RATF completed its Report in October 2000.

NEPC Committee agreed that:

  • health risk assessment is one possible tool for setting standards;
  • the standard setting process used (including the possible use of health risk assessment) will be determined on a case-by-case basis for each pollutant;
  • the possible use of health risk assessment in setting standards for a given pollutant would require an assessment of the availability of relevant data and the cost effectiveness of the approach(es) suggested.

In addition, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) established a standard setting working group to develop an agreed approach to setting Australian air quality standards. The working group comprises equal representation of health and environment sectors and is jointly chaired by a representative from the EPHC and from the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council.

A draft framework has been developed that builds on the RATF Report but extends beyond risk assessment to take into account health impacts, social, economic and environmental impacts, exposure assessmenr, together with a review of international appraoches to standard setting. A workshop involving health and environment experts from around Australia and overseas was held in July 2006 to finalise an agreed approach to health risk assessment.

During 2007/2008 work was undertaken to develop the exposure assessment component of the risk assessment framework and it is anticipated that the recommended approach will be presented to EPHC for release for public consultation in early 2009.

Report of the Risk Assessment Working Group

Report of the Risk Assessment Taskforce