Woodheater use comes under fire
Tamar Natural Resources Management Forum
More than $100 million is the estimated cost of deaths caused by domestic woodheaters in New Zealand, an air quality forum was told in Launceston yesterday.
The Tamar Natural Resources Management forum was told that woodheaters caused illness and death and it was a matter of balancing the costs and benefits.
Dr Dorothy Robinson. a statistician from the Armidale Air Quality Group, said the cost of wood smoke was often underestimated but was substantial.
She said Armidale, in rural NSW, had a woodsmoke problem but less money was being spent on investigations and education than in Launceston.
She commended Launceston on the progress made to reduce woodsmoke problems.
But she said the World Health Organisation had determined there was no safe level of particulate pollution, which were the small particles in wood smoke.
She said in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, with 38,000 woodheaters compared with about 8000 in Launceston, a study had found domestic woodheaters caused about 124 premature deaths a year.
This compared with 18 deaths from industry, 15.5 from diesel vehicles and 0.5 from petrol vehicles.
The health cost for a heater or open fireplace was more than $2000 a year.
"Is that worth it" she asked. "The community has to answer that question for itself."
She said people generally thought tobacco smoke was harmful but did not always think the same about wood smoke, although the chemical composition was similar.
Also, the forum was told the finalised air quality strategy for the State should be released next month. The draft strategy was released in August.
Other speakers were Tourism, Arts and Environment Department air quality specialist Kelvyn Steer and respiratory physician James Markos.
(Extracted from The Examiner, 19 May 2006, reporter Michael Lowe)