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Published: 2011-02-22 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is urging residents to get fired up for winter and buy or collect firewood now, so it’s nice and dry by the time it’s needed.

“On average, air pollution in Taupo exceeds the national standard about seven times a year, which is why we encourage people to get their firewood in spring or summer,” said EW air quality scientist, Dr Nick Kim.

“If you are using a woodburner or open fire, ensuring the wood is dry is one thing you can do to help improve local air quality, as dry wood produces less smoke. As well as being generally cheaper, getting it early gives you more time to stack and dry it before use.”

Air quality is assessed by measuring the amount of fine particles (PM10) in the air. These tiny particles are the main component of air pollution that can cause serious health problems.

The national standard says PM10 should not exceed 50 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) of air more than once over a 24-hour period in 12 months.  Regional council air quality monitoring figures for the last decade showed that this standard was exceeded over 10 times during each of the years 2003, 2006, and 2008. 

“In winter in Taupo, most PM10 comes from smoke from wood burned in home fires, not from industry or vehicles,” Dr Kim said.

“A number of factors contribute to air pollution, including how cold the winter is, prevalence of calm weather conditions that stop pollution from being dispersed, the amount of rainfall, and how much wet wood is being burned. 

“Ensuring wood is dry is a practical measure that Taupo residents can take to reduce air pollution in winter,” he said.

Visit www.ew.govt.nz/firewood for great tips on how to get the most heat from your firewood, save money and reduce PM10 emissions to improve the health of your family and your neighbours.

Environment Waikato has been working on addressing air quality problems in Taupo by helping eligible low income households replace smoky wood fires with clean heat appliances. Enquiries on the Waikato Clean Heat Programme can be directed to Energy Options on 0800 15 15 65.