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Why the condition of our air quality is important

Health effects are the primary reason we are concerned with air quality in New Zealand. Exposure to pollutants in the air is associated with a range of health problems, from respiratory irritation to some forms of cancer.

Based on modelled data, in 2012 there were about 1,000 premature deaths in New Zealand associated with exposure to human-made PM10, such as emissions from home heating, industry, and transport. In these cases, exposure to PM10 was not the only cause of premature deaths, as other factors may be involved. These estimates are made by considering the concentrations of PM10 New Zealanders are exposed to and anticipated health risk (from national and international studies) associated with this level of exposure. This equates to about 3 percent of total deaths that year. However, an estimated 14 percent decrease in premature deaths associated with exposure to human-made PM10 occurred between 2006 and 2012. This decrease is linked to a decrease in PM10 over the same period.

For more information see: The state of our air section.

Air quality can also indirectly affect our economy through its impact on people’s health, for instance, in the form of medical costs and lost productivity through absence from work. It also affects the environment. When air pollutants settle on land or waterways, or wash into waterways, they can pollute these environments. Certain air pollutants can also affect our climate. Some have a warming effect while others have a cooling effect. We do not report on these effects because of limited information on them.

For more detail see Environmental indicators Te taiao AotearoaHealth effects from exposure to PM10.