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Clean air — it’s about the right wood

Tairawhiti residents have been reminded by Gisborne District Council to burn only dry, suitable, firewood and keep chimneys clean and maintained to minimise air pollution.

During winter air quality usually declines due to smoke from woodburners and domestic fires.

The National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ) sets a minimum level of health protection for all New Zealanders.

“Councils are required to monitor levels of particulate matter (PM) of less than 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10) to meet the set health protection levels,” a GDC spokesman said.

“Particles larger than 20 micrometres in size are easily visible and can cause nuisance effects such as dust and ash on surfaces like window sills.

“Small-sized particles (less than 10 micrometres) are known to cause health issues.

“Breathing in these tiny suspended particles can be harmful as they end up in the airways, lungs or even enter the bloodstream,” the spokesman said.

Earlier this year the council's air quality monitoring equipment was upgraded to more modern technology that measures PM2.5 as well as PM10.

“This winter there has been eight exceedances of the permissible level for PM10. This is likely due to the more sensitive monitoring equipment.

To help improve our air quality and avoid smoking out your neighbour, here are some fire tips to reduce air pollution:

■ Use dry wood – it gives more heat and causes less pollution. Wood needs around 12 months to dry out before burning.

■ Do not burn driftwood in your fireplace — it creates a corrosive smoke which is likely to cause damage to the fireplace as well as release contaminants such as dioxin.

■ Keep your wood dry — store the wood undercover out of the rain and make sure air can flow around it.

■ Check your fireplace — clean the flue or chimney every year.

■ Never burn rubbish, treated wood or painted timber as they release chemicals.

■ Check the smoke coming out of your chimney — a clear emission usually means an efficient fire and less pollution.

■ Dispose of ashes once they're cold, do not place on vege gardens as arsenic is a contaminant product from the combustion process.