Poor air quality for ChCh and Auckland commuters

 Professor Simon Kingham

He has led a major project with other researchers from the University of Auckland and NIWA, collecting data in Christchurch and Auckland.

“This was the first study ever done in New Zealand. The results show that, compared to other countries, the air that commuters breathe while travelling is cleaner for carbon monoxide, but similar for fine particulates for some of the world’s biggest cities.

“The air inside motor cars is generally more polluted that the air in buses, trains and for cyclists. People cycling on the road experience significantly worse quality air than people cycling on routes away from roads.

“While people travelling by bicycle on roads travel in cleaner air, they can be exposed to higher peaks of pollution than other travellers.

“This was one of the first studies worldwide in a city with little or no long range transport of pollutants, lower population density and relatively little traffic congestion and, consequently, in an environment where the traffic is consistently moving, albeit sometimes at a slower speed.

“Despite this, the result showed that occupants in cars are exposed to the poorest air quality.

“It is widely accepted that transport emitted air pollution has an adverse effect on health outcomes such as mortality, morbidity and hospital admissions.

“In addition the economic costs can be great. It has been estimated that each year there are 500 cases of premature death in New Zealand due to exposure to air pollution.

“We wanted to investigate the issue of air pollution to gauge how significant it was in a small city such as Christchurch.

“Previous studies have taken place in larger or more densely populated urban areas with significant traffic congestion,” Professor Kingham says.

The research study was funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency and New Zealand’s Foundation for Research Science and Technology.


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