Health Risks Associated with Discharges to Air from Agriculture
Agricultural activities discharge a range of contaminants into the air including greenhouse gases, ammonia, particulate matter, endotoxins, pathogens, volatile organic compounds, and odour as well as chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. In New Zealand, livestock are known to be a significant source of greenhouse gases, however the potential public health risks associated with discharges to air from agriculture and agricultural practices in New Zealand have not been assessed. This review focusses on emerging issues related to agricultural activities that may be associated with risks for public health including particulate discharges to air from agriculture, and potential health risks associated with living near intensive livestock farms.
This is a preliminary scoping review to evaluate the relevance of these issues in New Zealand and identify data gaps.
Factsheets on World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines
- Health effects of air pollution [PDF, 416 KB]
- Health effects of air pollutant factsheets: supporting information [PDF, 159 KB]
- Health effects of long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM) [PDF, 190 KB]
- Health effects of short-term exposure to particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) [PDF, 197 KB]
- Health effects of long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) [PDF, 205 KB]
- Effects of short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) on asthma [PDF, 237 KB]
- Health effects of short-term exposure to sulphur dioxide (SO2) [PDF, 187 KB]
- Effects of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure on heart attacks [PDF, 159 KB]
Greywater reuse has become more frequent and widespread due to significant and increasing water shortages in New Zealand. There are potential health and environmental risks from reusing greywater, which can be managed through guidelines which set criteria and provide guidance on appropriate greywater reuses depending on the effluent quality. While New Zealand has no national guidelines, Australia has a national greywater standard and state guidelines which were developed to address water shortages during the millennium drought (2000-2009). In this report the Australian Standard and state guidelines are compared with the information and guidance provided in regional New Zealand guidelines and on council websites to help inform New Zealand practice.
Review of potential health hazards associated with industrial effluents
Untreated industrial effluents may contain a wide variety of contaminants of potential concern for human health. This report groups contaminants into seven broad classes: endocrine disrupting compounds, heavy metals and metalloids, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, microplastics, and contaminants of specific concern for tikanga Māori. To determine the potential health risks posed by these contaminants in the Aotearoa New Zealand context, further analysis is required.
Review of potential health hazards associated with industrial effluents [PDF, 2.1 MB]
Decontamination of mould-affected environments
When building materials become damp, fungal spores and bacteria present in indoor air and dust can colonise the building materials and grow, producing visible contamination (mould). Inhalation of mould has been associated with allergic reactions, toxic and irritant effects and infections.
Indoor mould growth can be prevented or minimised by actively maintaining, inspecting, and correcting buildings for moisture problems and immediately drying and managing water-damaged materials. However, necessary steps are not always taken and given the potential for adverse human health effects, it is important that mould occurring in the indoor environment be removed and that the cause of the high moisture contents also be addressed.
This report considers two bodies of information:
- Advice, provided by various organisations, on approaches for the removal of mould
- Evidence for the efficacy of approaches for the removal of mould
Public Health Risks associated with Transport Emissions in NZ
Transportation in New Zealand – which encompasses road, rail, maritime transport and aviation – emits a wide range of air pollutants, many of which present a public health risk. The adverse effects of transport emissions are significant in New Zealand. The social costs of transport-related harmful air pollution are currently estimated at $1.21 billion per annum (in $2019) as a result of New Zealanders dying prematurely, being admitted to hospital or suffering days lost due to illness or poor health. Transport sources also emit direct or indirect climate pollutants. Transport-related greenhouse gas emissions add an additional $1.68 billion in social costs per annum (in $2019).
This report is the first step in addressing the research question: “What are the risks to public health associated with road, sea, rail and air travel including vessel emissions, dusty roads and vehicle emissions in New Zealand?” It draws on a stocktake and gap analysis of the current state of knowledge across various transportation sectors as at 30 June 2021.
From health sector waste minimisation towards a circular economy
Of the 1.47 billion tonnes of solid waste that is produced each year globally, 5.9 million tonnes (approx. 16,164 tonnes per day) are estimated to be a result of health care waste. This figure has increased year on year, and the COVID-19 pandemic has served as an extreme example of the challenges for sustainable health care waste. Aotearoa New Zealand's health care sector is estimated to contribute between 3% and 8% of national carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. For comparison, the UK and the USA emit 4% and 10%, respectively, of their national CO2e from health care. Efforts are required to reduce waste production, landfill use and unnecessary procurement costs that arise from district health board activities, thus realising financial, environmental, cultural, health, wellbeing and social benefits.