In our last blog post, we took a look at what causes air pollution in New Zealand. Today, we're going a step further, uncovering the impacts and the real costs of air pollution in our country. For this, we'll delve into the Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (HAPINZ) 3.0 report, published in 2022.
Air Pollution in NZ: The Current Picture
New Zealand's clean, healthy air is a big part of why our quality of life is so great. Thankfully, our air quality is generally good. However, certain things, like vehicle exhaust and using solid fuel for home heating, can sometimes lead to poor air quality, particularly during winter.
Even though our pollution levels might be relatively low compared to many other countries, the health problems associated with air pollution here are still a serious concern.
Delving into the HAPINZ 3.0 Report
The HAPINZ 3.0 report gives us a detailed look at how air pollution impacts health and what it costs us in New Zealand, using data from 2016. The report focuses on tiny particles (PM2.5) and a gas called nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are major causes of health problems from air pollution.
The Startling Facts
The HAPINZ 3.0 report unveiled some shocking facts about the health and economic impacts of air pollution. In 2016 alone, exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 pollution was linked to:
- More than 3,300 premature deaths among adults in New Zealand
- Over 13,100 hospital admissions for breathing and heart problems
- More than 13,200 cases of asthma in children
- About 1.745 million days when people couldn't do their usual activities because of pollution-related health problems
The cost to society from these health problems added up to an astonishing $15.6 billion, with exposure to NO2 accounting for over 60% of these costs. This was a surprising and significant finding.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) - A Hidden Threat
One of the more surprising findings from the HAPINZ 3.0 report was the considerable impact of NO2. While it's been known to be harmful, the extent of its effects uncovered in the study was startling. Researchers found strong links between NO2 and early deaths, which were significant contributors to the total social cost.
Who's to Blame?
Let's break down the cost of PM2.5 pollution by source:
- Domestic fires: 74%
- Cars and other vehicles: 17%
- Dust blown by the wind: 8%
- Industry: 0.1%
For NO2 pollution, cars and other vehicles were assumed to be the sole source.
Air pollution affects different regions in different ways. In terms of PM2.5 pollution, domestic fires were the biggest problem in all regions. However, for overall pollution (both PM2.5 and NO2 combined), cars and other vehicles were the biggest problem in most places.
Understanding the true cost of air pollution is a crucial step towards cleaner air. The HAPINZ 3.0 report shows us that even though our air might be cleaner than many other places worldwide, we've still got work to do. The impact on our health and economy is significant, and we all have a part to play in improving things.
Part of the solution can be personal actions we take to improve the air in our immediate environment. Investing in tools like our top-of-the-range air purifiers can be a step towards ensuring the air you breathe at home or at work is as clean and healthy as possible.
Let's all work together for cleaner air in New Zealand.