A new global report on air quality has featured 17 New
Zealand centres among 1600 worldwide cities, with Timaru,
Christchurch and Rotorua turning in the poorest national
results for air pollution.
For New Zealand, the database measured PM10 - tiny
particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the
deepest part of the lung - which is monitored in OECD
countries because it can harm human health and reduce life
In New Zealand, PM10 levels were 11.7 micrograms per cubic
metre, much lower than the OECD average of 20.9 micrograms
per cu m and much lower than the annual guideline limit of 20
micrograms per cu m set by the World Health Organisation.
But as the newly released report by the World Health
Organisation showed, some centres had exceeded that level.
Timaru had a level of 28 (based on the 2011 record) while
Christchurch had 23 (2011) Rotorua 20 (2012) Blenheim 19
(2012) and Dunedin 18 (2012).
Others singled out were Auckland, 15 (2012) Hastings, 15
(2012) Whangarei, 15 (2012) Napier, 14 (2012) Masterton, 14
(2012) Wellington, 13 (2012) Hamilton, 13 (2012), Taupo, 13
(2012) Porirua, 12 (2012), Wainuiomata, 10 (2012) Upper Hutt,
10 (2012) and Lower Hutt, 10 (2012).
The report came after a study last year by the University of
Canterbury showed commuters in Auckland and Christchurch are
exposed to levels of air pollution similar to those found in
other large cities around the world.
That study showed that, compared to other countries, the air
that commuters breathe while travelling was cleaner for
carbon monoxide, but similar for fine particulates for some
of the world's biggest cities.
It was especially significant as Auckland and Christchurch
had comparatively less congestion and lower volumes of
traffic than other large cities around the world.
Its results showed that those taking private cars were worse
off than those who took public transport or cycled to work.
The WHO report, released overnight, showed more cities
worldwide were monitoring outdoor air quality, reflecting
growing recognition of air pollution's health risks.
But only 12 per cent of the people living in cities reporting
on air quality resided in cities where this complies with WHO
air quality guideline levels.
About half of the urban population being monitored was
exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher
than the levels WHO recommends - putting those people at
additional risk of serious, long-term health problems.
- Jamie Morton of the NZ Herald