In summer, air quality is usually very good in New Zealand, so the slightly higher concentrations of PM10 picked up by air quality monitoring stations around the country is unusual. Particles from the devastating fires in Australia have reached New Zealand and while there is no cause for alarm over the changes to local air quality, there is some advice for vulnerable populations.
Humans breathe in around 14,000 litres of air every day, and pollutants in this air can have adverse health effects. Air pollution comes from different sources, but the one of most concern to human health is suspended particulate (PM10). These are tiny particles in smoke, smaller than 10 microns across, which is about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. These particles are so small that they get inhaled and can travel deep into the lungs, irritating the breathing passages.
Large amounts of PM10 are associated with health problems such as irritation of the eyes and nose and can make existing respiratory or cardiac problems worse among young children and the elderly.
All regional councils and unitary authorities monitor for PM10. Vulnerable people can check up to the hour air quality monitoring results for their region on the LAWA website and should avoid exercising outdoors when PM10 concentrations are high.
Check air quality near you: www.lawa.org.nz/explore-data/air-quality/
Air Quality Factsheet: www.lawa.org.nz/learn/factsheets/monitoring-air-quality-in-new-zealand/