Air quality

Air pollution can have short and long-term impacts on our health. Learn about how we monitor and respond to poor air quality and fund research into reducing workplace air pollution.

Health impacts of air quality

The natural characteristics of the atmosphere change when air is polluted by chemical, physical or biological agents such as those from: 

  • household combustion devices

  • motor vehicles

  • industrial facilities

  • bushfire smoke.

The quality of the air we breathe can have temporary and lasting impacts on our health. Air pollution – particularly from human activities – can cause:

  • allergies and asthma 

  • lung and respiratory diseases 

  • heart disease 

  • some types of cancer.

Children, older people, and people with existing conditions are at particular risk. 

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is the main agency responsible for providing national guidance for maintaining our air quality. It delivers Australia’s National Clean Air Agreement, which includes: 

Bushfire smoke and particulates

Bushfires are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change. Bushfire smoke and the particulates it contains can cause: 

  • lung and respiratory effects 

  • cardiovascular effects 

  • effects on maternal health and pregnancy

  • carcinogenic effects.

The 2 types of particles that affect our health: 

  1. those that contribute to smoke haze and can irritate eyes, throat and lungs, but are too large to enter the bloodstream

  2. those that are too small to see, but when inhaled can enter the lungs and bloodstream.

Read our guidance on prolonged smoke events and our summary of current evidence on smoke and health.

Some wood is treated with a preservative containing copper, chromium, and arsenic (CCA). If a bushfire damages or destroys CCA-treated timber, its ash can become an environmental toxin and health hazard.  

Learn more about environmental toxins

The Bureau of Meteorology works closely with state and territory fire agencies to keep Australians safe from poor air quality caused by bushfire. 

We have funded smoke-related research through the Medical Research Future Fund for research into the physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure.

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