Clearer picture needed on air quality to safeguard our health

The Government needs to beef up the monitoring of a harmful airborne particle in order to protect New Zealanders’ health, the Green Party said today.

The call follows today’s release of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s "The State of Air Quality in New Zealand" report.

Among recommendations made by Commissioner Dr Jan Wright was a call for the Ministry for the Environment to include monitoring and reporting of the potentially fatal airborne particle PM2.5.

Main sources of PM2.5 in New Zealand include wood burning, diesel vehicles, sea salt and sulphate production. Breathing PM2.5 can lead to respiratory illness, even death. It is the particle found in high levels in China’s largest cities, caused in part by vehicles and coal burning.

Currently, New Zealand’s national air standards only require a limit on the concentration of PM10, a less harmful particle. 

“Dr Wright’s report reveals flaws in the way air quality is monitored in New Zealand and how distorted the reporting can be,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Julie Anne Genter. “If PM2.5 is the particle that has the most potential to affect human health, it makes sense that we monitor and report on this for the long term.

“While great work has been done in reducing the amount of particulate matter entering the environment through the reduction of coal fires in homes, insulation and other measures, the reporting of it tells only half the story.

“We support Dr Wright’s recommendation that the Ministry for the Environment review monitoring long term exposure to PM2.5 and set policy around this.

“New Zealand’s ‘generally good’ air quality shows how effective cleaner transport options and insulation in New Zealand homes can be at reducing pollution, but let’s not ignore the impact of PM2.5,” said Ms Genter.

ENDS

For more information:

Julie Anne Genter MP, 021 061 1164

Kimberley Rothwell, Political and Media Advisor, 04 817 6723, 021 253 8915

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