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On 11 September 2012 the Standing Council on Environment and Water released the findings of a study into the effects of air pollution on children's respiratory health. The Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study (ACHAPS) was conducted by researchers from University of Queensland and Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and funded by the Australian Research Council and the Standing Council on Environment and Water. The aim of the study was to provide information for the revision of the national standards - the Ambient Air Quality National Environment Protection Measure (AAQ NEPM).
2,860 children aged 7-11 years from 55 schools at 30 locations across Australia participated in the study. The selected schools were all within 3 kilometres of an air monitoring station.
The study found consistent evidence that higher levels of air pollution were associated with adverse respiratory health effects in children.
The study found that nitrogen dioxide had the strongest association with adverse respiratory effects in children. The study also found some adverse respiratory health effects associated with particles.
In most respects the findings of ACHAPS are consistent with those of similar studies conducted overseas, though some studies have reported more consistent and significant effects for particles.
Air quality in Australian cities is among the best in the world. However, ACHAPS demonstrates that even under these conditions, an association between air pollution and adverse respiratory health effects can be detected. This implies that there are health benefits to be gained from further reducing pollution.
The Standing Council on Environment and Water has committed to develop a National Plan for Clean Air which includes a response to the review of the AAQ NEPM. The results of ACHAPS will inform this response.
As part of the National Plan for Clean Air, Australian governments are working together to implement and consider new actions to reduce exposure to emissions. This will include updating the policy approach with the aim of reducing exposure to air pollution across the whole population, including at low levels.
For further information contact 02 6274 1819 or SCEW.Secretariat@environment.gov.au