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Published: 2007-07-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is looking at spending $1.2 million over the next four years in a bid to help reduce dangerous air pollution caused by home fires in the region’s urban centres.

The towns include Tokoroa, which has been identified as a blackspot in the Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand study released by the Government yesterday.

The money will be used to help convert inefficient fuel burners to clean burning heating appliances.

The funding, approved by the finance and audit committee, still needs to be approved by full council.

Environment Waikato’s chief executive Harry Wilson said the money would come from the council’s investment fund, which had also been used to help farmers with fencing waterways.

“By improving air quality in urban centres – one of Environment Waikato’s roles – we are effectively making an investment in the future health of people in the region, helping to reduce deaths and illnesses linked to air pollution.”

Environment Waikato will also apply to the Government for an equivalent amount of annual funding from its new $5.2 million heating appliance conversion fund.

Environment Waikato monitoring shows levels of dangerous tiny PM10 particles in Tokoroa regularly exceed the National Environmental Standard (NES) of 50 micrograms per cubic metre in winter.

PM10 particles are small enough to enter people’s lungs and can worsen allergies, inflame throats and noses, and contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease.

According to a government study released yesterday, pollution from home heating, vehicles and industry causes almost 1100 premature deaths in New Zealand and costs about $1.1 billion every year.

In Tokoroa, home fires contribute nearly 90 per cent of PM10 emissions.