However, our daily activities put pressure on this natural advantage; the way we travel, the fuels we use, the way we heat our homes and our industries all impact on our air quality. If we don’t keep an eye on all of this, and manage it appropriately, there’s a danger that our natural advantage will be squandered.
Breathing clean air is critical to protecting our health. The cleaner the air is, the better it is for us to breathe. Reduced air quality also affects the way Auckland looks. In winter, calm conditions cause pollutants to stay close to the ground, especially in the evenings when people are using their fireplaces. Emissions from vehicles and fireplaces can also cause an unsightly brown haze to form, especially around the CBD. Often these events also come with unpleasant smells.
There are three main sources of air pollution in Auckland: transport, domestic heating and industry. Natural sources such as sea salt are also present. Our monitoring programme also picks up natural events such as volcanic eruptions and even bushfires in Australia.
In winter, our major sources of air pollution are the emissions from the fireplaces many of us use to heat our homes. Burning solid fuels like wood and coal in open fireplaces and wood burners emits PM2.5 and PM10, and in winter we use our fires so much that PM emissions more than triple. PM2.5 and PM10 have significant impacts on our health, so it’s important for us to continue to reduce concentrations in our air.
Industry also emits pollutants to our air. The majority of these are from combustion processes – burning fuel for heat and steam to use in industrial processes. In summer, 25% of PM10 emissions is from industry, and in winter 7%.