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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.

“Air pollution exceeded safe levels 16 times last year for Tokoroa, and once for Putaruru, 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 over the last decade show that in Tokoroa, this standard was exceeded an average of 18 times each year during winter.

Air quality in Putaruru has been monitored for the last four years.  Results for Putaruru show generally cleaner air than Tokoroa, but the national threshold in Putaruru is still exceeded once or twice in a typical year.

“In winter in these areas, 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 residents of Tokoroa and Putaruru 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.