A breath of fresh air
They look like garden sheds but inside is the equipment that monitors the air we breathe.
The Auckland Regional Council has 15 air quality stations scattered across the region because specialist Janet Petersen says it’s vital to get a good picture of the area’s pollution levels.
The main polluters are vehicles, domestic and outdoor fires, industry and spray drift, but she says in winter pollution from domestic fires rockets and is responsible for 65 percent of the region’s pollution.
Pollution particles are invisible to the naked eye and are so fine they remain suspended in the air for up to 40 days.
Ms Petersen says breathing clean air is everybody’s right but last year Auckland breached the national standards for fine particles seven times.
“The health risks depend on the pollutant but children, the elderly and people with lung illnesses like asthma are most at risk,” she says.
While there have been no breaches this year some are expected in winter, she says.
But Ms Petersen says there are things people can do.
“Those who use fires should make sure they burn dry, seasoned wood of a reasonable size, and not leave fires smouldering overnight.
“And vehicles should be maintained and serviced regularly,” she says.
The council’s newest air quality station was built in Orewa last year and others are earmarked for Wiri, Papatoetoe, Albany and Waiheke.
Finding land with the right conditions in the right area for the stations can be difficult.
“This year we lost one of our main sites in Kingsland when the school it was on wanted the land to build a pool on.”
Air expert: Auckland Regional Council air quality specialist Janet Petersen keeps an eye on the air we breathe, and doesn’t always like what she sees.