Air pollution is characterised by the presence of chemicals or compounds in the air which are usually not present or are present at levels higher than those considered to be safe for human health. 1 Air pollution is the main cause of environmental effects such as acid rain (formed primarily by nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides in the atmosphere) which can acidify soil and water bodies leading to a threat on food security; and ground-level ozone which is responsible for destruction of agricultural crops and commercial forests. 2 Air pollution can cause detrimental changes to the quality of life. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is one of the greatest environmental threats to human health that can lead to increased mortality and morbidity. Pollutants mostly associated with health effects are particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. 3 Efforts have been made locally through the transition in legislation from the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (APPA) Number 45 of 1965 (focused on air pollution emitters) to the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act (NEMAQA) No. 39 of 2004 to not only reduce emissions of air pollutants but also to monitor effects of air pollution on the environment. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10), lead (Pb), sulfur dioxide (SO2 ), nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3 ), and benzene (C6 H6 ) were gazetted in 20094
, with PM2. 5 gazetted in June 20125 . However, the problems associated with air
pollution are far from being solved, particularly with the observed levels of particulate matter and ozone in areas declared as hotspots (Priority Areas) in South Africa. The main sources of particulate matter in these areas have
been identified as industry, mining, motor vehicles, and biomass and domestic burning. 6-8 Ground-level ozone is formed as a result of photochemical reactions in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. 9 The current approach
to implementation of air quality legislation to reduce air pollution may be inadequate considering evidence of negative impacts and risks. 10,11 Effective management of air quality in South Africa will require sound policy implementation, air quality monitoring and the enforcement of legislation and standards. Cooperation between government departments, economic sectors, research institutions and the public is of great importance in the battle against air pollution. The political buy-in of all spheres of government (municipal, provincial and national) is needed to ensure that environmental issues are at the top of the agenda in every sitting of the legislator to ensure that environmental programmes are allocated enough attention and appropriate resources. A published study has shown that a direct positive effect of democratic institutions on environment quality is higher in developed countries than in developing countries. 12 The aim of this Commentary is threefold: (1) to provide an overview of the current NEMAQA legislative instruments for air pollution prevention; (2) to consider the current state of NEMAQA implementation approaches; and (3) to reflect on future approaches for effective implementation of NEMAQA and ultimate reduction of air pollution in South Africa.