A year-long study has found the Blue Mountains and Lithgow region enjoys air quality that is generally very good, with air pollutants below health-based Australian air quality standards.
The Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch project provided a detailed 12-month study of ambient air quality in the region.
The monitoring was carried out using one temporary air quality monitoring station in Katoomba and 12 air quality sensors at Katoomba, Springwood, Wentworth Falls and Lithgow.
EPA Director Regulatory Operations Giselle Howard said the study found outside the bushfire period, particulate concentrations in the region were very low and did not vary widely between townships.
"The Air Watch project has confirmed the Blue Mountains region generally enjoys clean, healthy air, which is wonderful news for the community who embraced this project and were actively involved in making sure it was a success," Ms Howard said.
The monitoring project, which ran from June 2019 until May 2020, captured exceptional events during the study period, including major dust storms and the unprecedented 2019-20 summer bushfires.
Vital air quality data from these events has been used to develop a greater understanding of the impacts of bushfire smoke on human health.
"Given the severity and proximity of the summer fires, it is not unexpected that the findings show the bushfires had the greatest impact on local air quality and represented a potential public health risk,'' Ms Howard said.
"Emissions from industry and traffic were not discernible during the study, but small rises in carbon monoxide and PM2.5 particulates early in the morning, and again at night, may be as a result of wood burning heaters being used."
The Air Watch project was run by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), in conjunction with a Steering Committee that included Blue Mountains Union and Community, Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Lithgow Environment Group, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Blue Mountains and Lithgow councils, Doctors for the Environment, Western Sydney University and the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.
The NSW Government is currently developing a Clean Air Strategy and is considering the recent recommendations of a NSW parliamentary inquiry into air quality.
Communities can help improve local air quality by reducing wood smoke and car emissions.
Information on ways to keep the air clean, along with the final Air Watch report, can be found on the EPA website here.