Make a difference to air quality this winter
Southlanders are being urged to do their bit to improve the region’s air quality by burning only dry wood in their home fires and using good burning practice.
As cold weather starts to bite, it’s traditionally the time of year when fires are cranked up, and with people forced to spend more time in their homes as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, staying warm will be a high priority for many, especially our most vulnerable residents.
Unfortunately this is also a time of year when our air quality deteriorates, putting people, particularly those with existing respiratory conditions, at risk from poor air quality.
Environment Southland’s winter air quality season officially starts on 1 May and live PM10 (the measurement of particles in the air) readings for Invercargill and Gore are available on www.BreatheEasySouthland.co.nz. For those affected by respiratory conditions, being aware of outdoor conditions may help them make decisions about the best times to venture outside.
Environment Southland air quality scientist Owen West said home burners have been identified as the key contributor to high PM10 readings during the winter months in Southland and research has shown the effects of poor air quality on people’s health can be significant.
“From previous research we know that burning wood and coal for home heating contributes more than 90% of the PM10 we measure. It is this pollutant that has an impact on people’s health, especially those who are more susceptible to health complications, such as children, the elderly and others with respiratory conditions.
“Even for those who don’t have their breathing directly affected by air pollution, we know that it can cause general airway irritation and research on the long-term health impacts is very concerning.”
While home heating is the biggest contributor to poor air quality in Southland, it’s also an area where people can make the biggest difference.
“We know that having warm, healthy homes has a huge impact on people’s health and their quality of life, and we want to assist everybody to get the best from their heating.
“This year we are asking everybody to do their bit to help improve our air quality, to be aware of what they are burning, to improve their burning practice and to ensure they are reducing the smoke coming from their chimney.
“If people take the time to go outside and check how much smoke is coming out of their chimney, it’s a good start in helping them learn how they can optimise their fire to burn more efficiently.
“Keeping the fire burning hot and bright, burning only dry wood, not banking your fire overnight and ensuring the chimney is swept and the burner maintained will all help reduce the volume of smoke.”
The Regional Air Plan includes rules to help improve air quality. Open fires are now prohibited in the Invercargill and Gore airsheds, and non-compliant burners are being progressively phased out. Help is available for people within the Invercargill and Gore airsheds through the Clean Air Loans scheme to help them move to cleaner forms of heating.
Environment Southland operates a Good Wood approved suppliers scheme which firewood retailers voluntarily agree to be part of.
Over the winter period from 1 May through until 31 August, outdoor burning is also prohibited within the Invercargill and Gore airsheds. Those outside the airsheds can continue to burn but must still adhere to a number of rules, including not burning a number of prohibited items including baleage wrap and treated timber.
For further information on the Clean Air Loans scheme, Good Wood suppliers and what else you can do to improve air quality, go to www.BreatheEasySouthland.co.nz.