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Cold and smoky weekend made our air unhealthy

Air smoke 180508

Air quality in Hastings twice exceeded the national standard over the weekend.

The average level of very small particles in the air over Hastings, measured at St John’s College, was five and three micrograms per cubic metre of air above the acceptable level of 50 mg on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council air quality scientist Dr Kathleen Kozyniak says that more small particles in the air are more dangerous to our health.

“The particles are bad for everyone’s health and the smaller they are, they get further into your system. The particles have been linked to health issues and diseases including lung cancer and heart problems.

“The combination of cold weather and not much wind led to more smoke. What would help is for anyone using their burners to burn dry wood and nothing else. If you’re burning treated timber, rubbish, or wet wood, you’re making our air dirty.

“We had three exceedances last year, one the year before and we want to get to no more than one exceedance per year by September 2020,” says Dr Kozyniak.

Regional Council Sustainable Homes programme manager Mark Heaney said he was disappointed to see any exceedances.

“About 87 per cent of the problem comes from domestic fires. We know there are some non-compliant fires that have yet to be replaced but even if the fire is compliant, trying to burn green or wet wood results in smoke that is an unhealthy nuisance. Where there’s smoke, there’s a fire that’s not burning efficiently so your money is going up in smoke rather than heating your home,” says Mr Heaney.

“We’ve made great progress in improving our air quality – it’s improved by 54% in Napier and Hastings since we started our programme in 2009, but we’ve still got a way to go. I really encourage people to use our Sustainable Homes programme to replace a smoky fire with clean heating.”

The Regional Council is committed to making Hawke’s Bay air cleaner and healthier and offers the Sustainable Homes programme with support to replace non-compliant wood burners across Hawke’s Bay to help fund warmer, drier and healthier homes. This also includes a Good Wood scheme in partnership with approved dry wood sellers.

Air quality rules are set under the National Environmental Standards and allow up to an average of 50mg of PM10 (Particulate Matter smaller than 10 microns) over a 24 hour period.

1 July 2019

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