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Air monitoring picks up arsenic threat in NZ urban areas


16:48, May 06, 2013

WELLINGTON, May 6 (Xinhua) -- New Zealanders burning treated timber to keep warm in winter have caused airborne arsenic levels in some of the country's towns and cities to exceed national and international guidelines, a government research institute warned Monday.

Air monitoring by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS Science) found that atmospheric concentrations of arsenic, a known carcinogen, were in some cases, twice the upper guideline for human health.

The studies suggested that sufficient quantities of timber treated with copper-chrome-arsenic were being burnt to potentially cause acute or chronic illness in sections of the population.

The most likely source of the treated timber was off-cuts from renovations and demolitions.

"These findings show that air in New Zealand urban centres is not as clean as we would like to think," GNS Science study leader Perry Davy said in a statement.

"In fact some of the winter measurements are more like the air we expect to encounter in polluted overseas cities."

The disposal of domestic fire ash that contained residual arsenic, copper and chromium in gardens could also contaminate vegetables.

The highest average concentrations of were mainly in North Island centers, including Auckland, the country's biggest city.

Some municipal councils had begun enforcement and community education programs to stop the burning of treated wood, but the monitoring showed more work was needed, Davy said.

"Particles that are 10 microns in diameter or smaller are seen as a health hazard as they can get past the body's defences and cause multiple health issues when they settle in the lungs. Larger particles readily settle out of the air and are less of a threat."

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:LiangJun、Yao Chun)

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