Working to improve air quality in our region
New Zealand research suggests that ambient air pollution is responsible for an estimated 970 premature deaths each year in people over 30 years of age, approximately 400 of which are from vehicle emissions. Fine particles are produced in the combustion of fuel pose greater health risks than previously thought – these are known as PM10 and PM2.5. Harmful gases also affect air quality such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, benzene and nitrogen dioxide.
There are several different sources of air pollution:
- Burning wood, coal, gas, diesel or other materials for home heating such as domestic fires are the main contributor to ambient air pollution in many parts of New Zealand.
- Cars, buses, off-road vehicles, trucks, planes and diesel trains produce exhaust containing fine particles and other air pollutants. Traffic can also create dust.
- Many industrial processes release air pollutants as well as burning wood, coal, gas, diesel or other materials for heating commercial or public buildings like schools and hospitals.
- Many activities inside our homes produce air pollutants. These include cooking, heating, furnishings, cleaning, smoking, people, animals, room fresheners, and mould.
- Natural sources include wind-blown dust, pollen and sea salt.
Children, elderly people and those with respiratory diseases are more vulnerable to air pollution and areas of high deprivation have greater excess mortality from air pollution. The infographic below shows the health impacts of the common air pollutants.
Find out more about the health effects of some common air pollutants (Ministry for the Environment).
Community and Public Health provides a supporting role to Environment Canterbury for monitoring and policy responses to ambient air quality issues and improvements. A current focus is giving public health input to the Natural Resources Regional Plan (Air Quality).
Contact your local CPH office for further information:
Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6125
Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091
Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169
For additional information, contact:
ECAN Winter Air Pollution Forecast
Ph: +64 3 353 9004
Dust from quarries under close scrutiny
A new comprehensive air monitoring programme is being set up in Yaldhurst amid concerns about the health effects of the dust coming from quarries.
Nuisance dust has been a long-standing issue in the Yaldhurst area. Some residents came to Environment Canterbury with their concerns about the health effects of dust coming from the quarries in late 2016.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said that some residents had been suffering from symptoms consistent with mined silica exposure. “These symptoms resolved when they were no longer exposed to the dust,” he said.
Dr Humphrey, a respiratory physician and a toxicologist agreed that it was important to ensure residents were not exposed to unacceptable levels of mined silica in the long-term, which could have serious effects.
Canterbury Regional Air Plan
Community and Public Health has a joint work plan with Environment Canterbury around common areas of interest, including air quality.
One example of this collaboration was the review of the Regional Air Plan. A joint Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Air Plan was done to assess the potential impact of proposed plan changes on population health.
The HIA revealed that air quality is closely linked with housing, heating, and energy use, and these factors need to be considered when dealing with unintended health consequences. The HIA recommendations included the carefully phased introduction of home heating changes along with supporting measures, such as targeted heating and insulation subsidies.