Proposed Australian National Air Quality Standards
Estimated monetary benefits from control of various pollutants


Pollutant Estimated monetary benefit of achieving the proposed air quality standard
CO $34 million - reduced health treatment costs
NO2 $4.5 million - reduced health treatment costs
O3 $95 - 285 million - reduced health treatment costs
SO2 $12.5 million - reduced health treatment costs
PM10 / PM2.5* $850 million - reduced health treatment costs 
$4 billion - avoided deaths

* PM10 is particulate matter composed of particles less than 10 micron in diameter; while PM2.5 is composed of fine particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter.
The current proposed air quality standard is 50 micrograms/cubic metre maximum 24-hour average for PM10, and  25 micrograms/cubic metre for PM2.5. Latest research indicates that PM2.5 relate more closely to the health data. Only the PM2.5 standard is relevant for smoky areas, since woodsmoke is almost entirely PM2.5.

The above table, from p52 of  the National Environment Protection Council discussion document (downloadable from - look for NEPM on Ambient Air Quality) gives estimated benefits of various air pollution control measures.

The report acknowledges the major role played by wood heaters in urban air pollution and suggests that careful consideration should be given to "a restriction on the use of wood heaters in major airsheds say, in 10 years time. This might be the most cost effective means of achieving the two thirds goal which would allow recent purchasers of new wood heaters time to amortise the capital costs and time to prepare for a new source of domestic heating in the next century".

The benefits of measures to control particulate pollution, estimated to save $4 billion in avoided deaths and $850 million in reduced health treatment costs, indicate particulate pollution is far and away the most serious and costly pollutant.

The health cost savings are based on the number of days when the standard is exceeded multiplied by  the number of people exposed to the pollution - the number of person-day exceedences.
The following table table compares the person-day exceedences of  PM10 for Sydney,  Perth,  and Launceston (where woodsmoke pollution is high):-

City Person-day Exceedences
Sydney 11.8 million
Perth 1.7 million
Launceston 12.1 million


Launceston, with a population of approximately 100,000 therefore has more person-day exceedences than Sydney with a population of 3 million!!!  In terms of exceedences per person, the problem is 30 times worse in  Launceston, than in Sydney. Yet in Sydney, a study by NSW Health estimated that 400 people die every year from particulate air pollution.  It was found that particle levels (and deaths) are higher in Sydney in the colder months, when carbon dating of air samples found two thirds of fine particles originate from the 13% of  households which burn wood.

Surprisingly, even in Perth, carbon dating and other techniques found  wood burning (mainly woodstoves in winter, and burn-off at other times of the year) accounted for 3 times as much particulate air pollution as motor vehicles.  (Gras, J. L. (1996). The Perth Haze Study: a report to Department of Environmental Protection of Western Australia on fine-particle haze in Perth. Aspendale, Vic.: CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research. 145, 16 p. )

 Daily average data for Armidale compared with proposed standard.