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Christchurch air quality study supports tougher ru

Hon Marian Hobbs
Minister for the Environment

1 September 2005 Media Statement

Christchurch air quality study supports tougher rules

New research shows that tougher central and local government air quality standards in Christchurch will save dozens of lives and millions of dollars every year.

The Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (HAPiNZ) Christchurch pilot study was released today. The report says that air pollution from domestic fires, industry and vehicle emissions causes 158 premature deaths in Christchurch each year and costs the local economy $168 million annually.

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs says the report more accurately measures the impacts of air pollution on human health, although the results were in line with what was expected.

"The report reinforces the need for tough rules to reduce air pollution, such as new environmental standards that take effect today and the measures in Environment Canterbury's proposed regional air plan," the minister said.

"The researchers' analysis shows that the new design standard for wood burners would reduce premature deaths in Christchurch due to domestic fires by 60 in 2020.

"A ban on open fires and restrictions on new wood burner installations in Christchurch would mean that, by 2020, a further 53 people would not die prematurely in the city each year.

"The researchers also estimated that by 2020 industrial emissions restrictions in Environment Canterbury's air plan would save another six people from dying prematurely each year."

The study also analysed the health effects of air pollution, and says the additional effects of fine particle and benzene pollution cause 52 cases of chronic bronchitis, 53 hospital admissions from acute cardiac illness and 194 admissions from acute respiratory problems annually. It also says there are 1.6 cases of leukaemia each year and that the number of days where people are so affected by air pollution that they have to take time off work or school, or not engage in normal activities, totals 285,000 across all of Christchurch each year.

"This pilot study is showing significant results, and it will be good to have a comprehensive New Zealand study on which to base subsequent programmes to improve air quality," Marian Hobbs said.

Christchurch was chosen as the pilot for the full Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand study because it has been identified as having serious air quality problems, and there were large amounts of data available on air quality. The results are relevant to Christchurch only, and will be different in other areas, where the effects and the split between domestic, industrial and vehicle emissions will differ.

Once the pilot study report has been reviewed the researchers will use the methodology trialled in it to analyse the health impacts in the rest of New Zealand.

The full study is funded as a joint project between the Health Research Council, the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry of Transport. The research is being carried out by a large team of experts from the National Institue of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the University of Canterbury Geography department, the Wellington Medical School, the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the Australian National University, Landcare Research, and private consultants and students. Over 20 people are involved, covering a range of specialities from basic air quality science, modelling, epidemiology, toxicology, economics, policy and Maori issues.

The report is available from the HAPiNZ website or from the Ministry for the Environment's website www.mfe.govt.nz.


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