RM Journal

Air quality standards in Aotearoa – time for an update


Author: Lou Wickham, Director and Senior Air Quality Specialist, Emission Impossible

Thirteen years after the Resource Management Act 1991, the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004 were promulgated to provide national direction for air quality management by setting a guaranteed minimum level of health protection for all New Zealanders.

During the nearly 20 years since the national air quality standards were introduced, there has been a significant improvement in particle pollution. Particles are characterised by their diameter which determines transport, deposition characteristics and ultimately health effects.

For example, PM10 includes inhalable particles that are sufficiently small to penetrate to the thoracic region. Finer particulates, with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5), have a high probability of deposition in smaller conducting airways and lung alveoli.

The improvement in New Zealand’s air quality is most evident by reviewing annual exposure to particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter, or PM10.

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