Air pollution contributes to the premature death of 3,300 adults in one year
Waka Kotahi NZTA/Supplied
Exhaust fumes, along with smoke caused by burning fuels like wood and coal to heat homes, have combined to produce “unacceptable air quality in some places, especially in winter”, according to a new report.
Health problems compounded by air pollution led to the premature death of more than 3,300 adults and social costs of $15.6 billion in one year.
A new report, looking at the year 2016, found that levels of PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused by human activity contributed to premature deaths.
This pollution has contributed to more than 13,100 hospitalizations for respiratory and heart disease, including hospitalizations for childhood asthma, and more than 13,200 cases of childhood asthma.
In one year, air pollution caused about 1.745 million days that people were unable to do activities due to air pollution.
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Social costs (cost to society resulting from premature death, healthcare system expenditures, reduced productivity) totaled $15.6 billion, with NO2 exposure accounting for just over 60% total costs – the report Health and air pollution in New Zealand 2016 ( HAPINZ 3.0), called this a “significant and surprising finding”.
Clean, healthy air contributes to the quality of life – not only to people’s health, but also to the natural functioning and beauty of our environment.
“New Zealand has good air quality in most places most of the time,” the report said. However, the exhaust fumes, along with the smoke caused by burning fuels like wood and coal to heat homes, have combined to produce “unacceptable air quality in some places, especially in winter.” “.
The length of time people are exposed to air pollutants, the concentration of the pollutants, and the susceptibility of those exposed together determine the likelihood and magnitude of the resulting health effects.
The financial costs of PM2.5 pollution due to human activity were $6.1 billion – they came from house fires (74%), motor vehicles (17%), dust blown by wind (8%) and industry (0.1%).
The cost of NO2 pollution was $9.5 billion and resulted from motor vehicles alone.
While the annual population-weighted average of PM2.5 improved by more than 21% between 2006 and 2016, the resulting social costs only decreased by 9.4%. The improvements – largely due to the reduction of wood-burning fireplaces – have been offset by population growth.
In contrast, the NO2 concentration worsened by more than 13% during this 10-year period, leading to an increase in social costs of more than 28%. The report says this was “not surprising given the number of diesel vehicles, which are the main source of NO2, [having] increased significantly since 2006.