A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently revealed that Timaru has the highest air pollution levels in Australasia.
The recent figures show that Timaru’s annual mean levels (PM10 particles and PM2.5 particles, which are used to measure air quality levels) both exceed the WHO’s safety levels, making it have “worst level of air pollution” in the area.
NewsHub reported that Timaru “measured annual mean levels of 28µg/m3 and 15µg/m3 in 2012, ahead of all major cities in New Zealand and Australia.”
This current condition may increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases like asthma.
According to Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright, however, people should not panic. Though there is “some risk,” the WHO’s guidelines state that 10 and 20 micrograms per cubic metre respectively are still considered safe.
“People get the idea that if you’re below the guidelines then everything’s fine, and if you’re about then everything’s terrible. That’s not the case at all,” Wright said. “Air quality over time has got a whole lot better in New Zealand, and will continue to do so.”
Katherine Trought, Environment Canterbury air spokesperson, pointed out that the current numbers are still a sharp decrease on the year when there would be 41 high-pollution nights.
“We’re really thrilled with the response the community has had to this better burning message, and it’s coming through reduction and the concentrations of air pollution,” she said, explaining that much of all this comes down to domestic fires.
“Install better burning devices, better wood burners, because we know more modern wood burners are less polluting and the better people can light their fires and run a really hot fire, the less smoke comes out their chimney,” she said.
Reports say that Auckland (PM10: 14 and PM2.5: 6) and Wellington’s (PM10: 10 and PM2.5: 5) air is much cleaner. Invercargill, Gore, Alexandra, Christchurch and Ashuburton, also exceeded the WHO’s recommended levels.