Air quality

Management of air quality in New Zealand is undertaken to protect communities and the environment from the adverse effects of air pollution.

The primary focus is on the impacts of air contaminants on human health such as PM10 (particles less than 10 microns in diameter), PM2.5, ozone, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. These contaminants are primarily the emissions from wood burners for domestic heating, transport emissions and discharges from industrial sources.

The management requirements for air quality are primarily outlined under the Resource Management Act (1991) and implemented through national environmental standards for air quality which sets limits for allowable levels of air pollution and regional planning (Regional Policy Statements and Regional Plan Rules). The implications for air quality are also considered under the Land Transport Management Act and associated Land Transport Strategies.

The World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe has recently published a technical report: Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution – REVIHAAP Project.

This document presents answers to 24 questions relevant to air quality policy as well as specific topics on health aspects of individual air contaminants. The review was conducted by invited experts from top institutions across the world. The review focuses on the health effects of ambient air pollution and incorporates the latest scientific research. Specifically, the review provides significant additional support for previous conclusions regarding causality on the association between particulate matter and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity and discusses new health outcomes linked to long-term exposure to PM2.5. As such, the document has timely and important technical information for air quality management and public health in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Health commissioned Emission Impossible Ltd to review the WHO document in detail and distil the relevant scientific and key policy implications for the New Zealand context. The summary report which conveniently condenses the 300 page full technical report into an 18 page summary, is available to all interested parties on Emission: Impossible’s website.

For links and full text visit the article on the MoH website.

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