Experts have called for new guidelines for setting air quality thresholds in Australia after an article was published that explains the current method is one that “balances risk assessment (health effects based on the exposure-response relationship) with the costs of abatement strategies to achieve the required targets”.
“This puts regulators in a position of balancing the costs of expanding infrastructure against the benefits to human health,” they wrote.
“The current approach to the regulation of air pollution implies a causal model that is inconsistent with the available evidence.
“It provides no incentive for reducing exposure and allows increases in exposure to harmful pollutants, as long as the levels remain below the thresholds.
“This provides only partial health protection and adversely impacts community perceptions by implying that the current standards represent a ‘safe’ level of exposure.”
Specifically, the scientists are concerned with the current particulate matter standards in Australia.
“Acute exposure to PM10 is associated with hospitalisations and mortality for cardiorespiratory conditions, while long term exposure is linked to chronic cardiorespiratory conditions and metabolic disorders,” the article explained.
“No safe threshold for PM10 exposure has been identified.”
“On this basis, the current standards are not sufficient to adequately protect the health of the Australian community.”
Authors of the report, including Professor Graeme Zosky, Deputy Director of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, and colleagues, explain that they are firmly for the revision of the standards for pollutants, as explained in the most recent impact statement prepared for the National Environment Protection Council.