Wood burning fires a winter health hazard

May 07, 2013

Research by a Victoria University student shows that particulate matter from wood burning fires is a winter health hazard in New Zealand.

The research by Canadian-born Travis Ancelet, who graduates from Victoria University with a PhD in Chemistry next week, has implications for health and safety both in New Zealand and overseas.

"If we can better understand what's driving air pollution, then we can significantly improve air quality and ," says Travis.

"On the totem pole of environmental responsibility, people think burning wood is better than other options, such as electricity or gas central heating, particularly when they don't involve deforesting huge amounts of habitation. But wood burning is a significant contributor to air pollution," says Travis.

Travis didn't expect his research results to show that, particularly in Auckland, wood burning fires contributed more than in the winter months.

"That was a surprise, especially because most people think is the leading cause of air pollution."

Travis's research also identified the time of day that the worst pollution from wood burning occurs.

His study focused on airborne in four New Zealand centres – Masterton, Alexandra, Nelson and Auckland – over two-month periods during winter to assess how air pollution changed by the hour.

A number of samplers were used to record results, mainly at sites where local councils were already monitoring air pollution.

"We also located samplers about a kilometre upwind and downwind of these sites, as well as at height, to assess how particle concentration varied according to where people lived."

While he anticipated results would show an upswing in the evening when residents got home from work, he didn't expect to increase in the morning.

"It indicated that some people light the fire when they get up."

Travis hopes his research will make a tangible difference to air quality in New Zealand. As part of his job at GNS Science, he is working alongside a number of regional councils to help them better understand air pollution issues and meet their environmental commitments set by the Ministry for the Environment.

He is also expanding his research to include the sources and impacts of other toxic pollutants on air quality in other New Zealand locations.

Explore further: Satellite data measures Nile water for region security

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Emission sources identified in Huon Study

Aug 24, 2011

Emissions from domestic wood-fired heaters in southern Tasmania's Huon Valley dwarf emissions from forest regeneration burns, according to a new CSIRO study.

Scientists trace particulate air pollution to its source

Feb 20, 2013

(Phys.org)—Scientists at the University of California, Davis, have, for the first time, developed a system that can determine which types of air particles that pollute the atmosphere are the most prevalent ...

Wood-burning sets off pollution alarm bells in Athens

Dec 28, 2012

Air pollution in Athens has surged in recent days because of people choosing wood over more expensive fuels to heat their homes in the grips of a continuing economic crisis, the environment ministry said ...

Pregnant mothers at risk from air pollution

Oct 07, 2011

A Californian-based study has looked in detail at air quality and the impact of traffic-related air pollution on premature birth. Published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health, results from this s ...

Recommended for you

Eco-pottery product from water treatment sludge

41 minutes ago

Sludge is a by-product of water treatment. Sludge is produced during the clarification and filtration process in the water treatment system. It is also produced from the accumulated solids removed from sedimentation ...

Agricultural trade appears unaffected by BC carbon tax

51 minutes ago

British Columbia's carbon tax does not appear to have had a measurable impact on international agricultural trade, despite concerns it would greatly reduce the BC industry's competitiveness, according to new analysis commissioned ...

New water balance calculation for the Dead Sea

20 hours ago

The drinking water resources on the eastern, Jordanian side of the Dead Sea could decline severe as a result of climate change than those on the western, Israeli and Palestinian side. This is the conclusion ...

User comments : 0