Of­fi­cials tar­get gas heaters in rentals

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - RACHEL THOMAS

Por­ta­ble gas heaters could be out­lawed in rentals as the Gov­ern­ment pre­pares to con­sult on new laws around heat­ing homes.

Min­i­mum heat­ing stan­dards for rental homes through­out the coun­try – in­clud­ing the types of heaters land­lords can pro­vide – will be dis­cussed later this year as a re­sult of the new Healthy Homes Guar­an­tee Act 2017, Hous­ing Min­is­ter Phil Twyford said.

‘‘If a de­ci­sion was made to not al­low land­lords to pro­vide por­ta­ble gas heaters for use in rental homes, it would not re­sult in a ban on the sale of such heaters, only a pro­hi­bi­tion on land­lords us­ing them to meet their obli­ga­tions under the act,’’ Twyford said.

That wouldn’t mean ten­ants could not bring their own heaters but land­lords would be able to write a clause into con­tracts which would ban their use, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment (Mbie).

But pub­lic health ex­pert and As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Nevil Pierse said these cheap gas heaters were adding to res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems and New Zealand should join the likes of Canada, Ire­land and New South Wales by ban­ning them al­to­gether.

Por­ta­ble, or un­flued, gas heaters do not have fixed, at­tached vents to the out­side, so they re­lease ni­tro­gen diox­ide and car­bon monox­ide into the air, at lev­els high enough to ag­gra­vate, or even cause, asthma in chil­dren, he said.

‘‘No doubt’’ these heaters con­trib­uted to res­pi­ra­tory-re­lated overnight hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tions which, in 2013, ac­counted for 1 in 10 of all overnight hospi­tal stays.

Chil­dren in homes with un­flued gas heaters missed more days of school, and homes which used these heaters had three times the amount of dan­ger­ous ni­tro­gen diox­ide, which could ag­gra­vate cases of asthma, Pierse ex­plained.

He made these calls fol­low­ing re­search from Australia, which said gas stoves were re­spon­si­ble for more than 12 per cent of child­hood asthma cases.

While a gas stove top emits about 40 mi­cro­grams (mcg) per cu­bic me­tre of ni­tro­gen diox­ide, the lev­els from por­ta­ble gas heaters were al­most 10 times that – at 360mcg, Pierse said.

‘‘Stud­ies have shown ni­tro­gen diox­ide at lev­els way lower than that is re­ally bad for asthma.’’

World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion guide­lines state short-term con­cen­tra­tions of ni­tro­gen diox­ide greater than 200mcg cause ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant in­flam­ma­tion of the air­ways’’.

Use of these heaters was de­clin­ing but roughly 15 per cent of rentals had these LPG heaters, along­side some 6 per cent of owner-oc­cu­pied homes, Pierse said.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials said a blan­ket ban wasn’t on the cards but they strongly ad­vised against such de­vices as a pri­mary heat­ing op­tion.

WorkSafe and the Min­istry of Health ad­vise on their web­sites that peo­ple who use por­ta­ble, un­flued gas heaters should en­sure ven­ti­la­tion is ad­e­quate and those with res­pi­ra­tory is­sues should take ex­tra care.

‘‘The Min­istry of Health alone wouldn’t have the scope to ban un­flued gas heaters,’’ a min­istry spokes­woman said.

WorkSafe said these heaters were more suit­able for sup­ple­men­tary heat­ing than as a pri­mary heat­ing source.

‘‘En­ergy Safety mon­i­tors in­for­ma­tion and re­search about these heaters but is not con­sid­er­ing a ban on their use. WorkSafe has no plans to in­ter­vene in the is­sue,’’ a spokes­woman said.

Pierse, orig­i­nally from Ire­land, was ‘‘hor­ri­fied’’ at the state of New Zealand homes when he ar­rived in Wellington 12 years ago.

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