Stuff, 11 August 2016
Air pollution in Blenheim is regularly exceeding Government
limits this winter, which could lead to widespread respiratory
illness, a public health doctor says.
The Ministry for the Environment allows councils one day a
year where air quality can drop below safe breathing levels.
"This allows for one-off atypical events such as Guy Fawkes," air
monitoring agency Land, Air, Water Aotearoa
Already this winter, Blenheim had counted four days where the
air was too polluted to breathe.
Air which was unsafe to breath contained more than 50
micrograms of pollutants in a cubic metre of air. Any day
where the average pollution level was over 50 micrograms per cubic
metre was counted as a breach.
This week, pollution levels reached three times the daily limit
overnight. Early on Thursday morning, 150 micrograms of pollutants
While there was no hourly limit in place, Marlborough
District Health Board medical officer Ed Kiddle said such heavily
polluted air would have an effect on the public's health.
"The limit's just a guide," he said. Even if the pollution was
below the limit, people could still become sick, he warned. "It's
not a level you can pollute up to."
In the past 30 days the limit was almost exceeded on 11 days, as
well as four breaches, for the daily average of air pollution.
On Thursday, following an extremely polluted night, the average
was 49.8 micrograms of pollutants per cubic metre, 0.2 micrograms
below the limit.
Pollution would effect people with existing lung conditions
first, Kiddle said. The pollution, combined with cold
conditions, could cause asthma attacks and would impact "little
kids and the elderly" most heavily, Kiddle said.
Long-term, other illnesses and breathing difficulties would be
expected to develop for some people exposed to the
pollution, Kiddle said.
While air pollution peaked at nights, when most people were
inside, indoor pollution did occur and the danger for those
outside was significant, Kiddle said.
Marlborough District Council
environmental science and monitoring manager, Alan Johnson was
clear, "it's not good enough."
Most pollution in Blenheim was due to private
fires, Johnson said, which meant controlling pollution was
While the council would ban outdoor fires in urban Blenheim
under the Marlborough Environment Plan (MEP), fireplaces continued
to be an issue.
"The trouble is, in a lot of communities like Marlborough
you have people accustomed to it," Johnson said.
The council was encouraging homeowners to use less harmful
burners, but Johnson admitted there was no way to regulate
He expected to see a slow decline in air pollution as new
homes installed more eco-friendly heaters, as required by