New Zealand is globally celebrated for its breathtaking natural landscapes, often associated with clean air and an untouched environment. However, there are areas of the country where air quality issues are an unseen reality. Let's take a closer look at the causes of air pollution in NZ.
Air Pollution: The Big Picture
As per the latest LAWA Air Quality National Picture Summary, NZ has relatively good air quality overall. Yet, in some regions, people are exposed to higher levels of particulate matter, particularly during the winter months.
This disparity arises due to several factors, such as weather conditions, geography, and the nature and volume of emissions present in each area.
Winter Woes: Home Heating and Air Quality
As we previously discussed in our blog on winter air quality issues, the lack of wind on colder winter days and the occurrence of inversion layers can trap particulate matter close to the ground, causing pollution levels to spike. Wood burners are popular in these areas, which emit particulate matter.
The Role of Vehicles in Air Pollution
Motor vehicles, especially those that are diesel-powered, are significant contributors to air pollution in NZ. They emit high amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter. Factors like brake wear, tyre wear, and the presence of an older vehicle fleet compound the issue.
Nature's Role in Air Quality
At times, nature itself contributes to spikes in air pollution. Events like wildfires and occasional volcanic eruptions introduce large amounts of particulate matter and gases into the atmosphere, affecting local air quality.
Insights from LAWA’s 2023 Summary
According to LAWA's summary, in 2022, 42 of 60 monitored sites met the New Zealand standard for daily average PM10 concentrations. However, the monitoring of smaller particles (PM2.5) has revealed that these can exceed international guidelines more often than PM101. These tiny particles pose more significant health risks as they can lodge deep into our lungs and even reach the bloodstream.
Through enhanced monitoring efforts, regional councils and unitary authorities aim to understand and manage air quality more effectively.
Measures to Improve Air Quality
As we gear up against winter cold, we can also protect ourselves from air pollution.
Monitor the Air Quality
Air quality knowledge in your area is crucial. Monitoring can help us make informed decisions about indoor stay times during poor air quality periods. LAWA (Land Air Water Aotearoa) has a great air quality dashboard which can tell you more about the trends in your area. For live air quality monitoring check out the aqicn website.
It can also help to monitor your indoor air, we have affordable and high accuracy air quality monitors available on our website.
Air Purifiers and Filters
Quality air purifiers can remove harmful particulate matter from your home's air. Opt for purifiers with HEPA filters to remove PM2.5 particles. We provide a range of proven, affordable and effective air purifiers from Smart Air®.
While New Zealand enjoys a reputation for clean air and a pristine environment, it's crucial to address areas where air quality can be improved. Armed with knowledge and understanding, we can better tackle the complexities of air pollution.