Air quality-related public health impacts from land use and transport: Literature review
Transport activities have direct and indirect public health impacts, some of which are negative (e.g. air pollution) but others which are positive (e.g. increased physical activity). A well-designed transport system reduces reliance on non-renewable resources and fits into the natural and physical environment in ways which avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects. While New Zealand has guidance and tools to assess public health impacts associated with roading projects, impacts from land use are less well supported.
As part of the Health Risks from Transport Emissions in New Zealand research project, Emission Impossible Limited (EIL) were contracted to undertake this brief literature review on quantifying the health impacts of land use and transport emissions, including the ability to consider the benefits of alternatives.
Air quality-related public health impacts from land use and transport: Literature review [PDF, 1.2 MB]
Public Health Risk associated with Transport Emissions in NZ: Part 2 Road Transport Emission Trends
The transport sector – road, rail, maritime and aviation - emits a wide range of air pollutants which have associated adverse effects. In 2021, the Ministry of Health (MoH) funded a stocktake of the state of knowledge of the public health risks associated with transport emissions in New Zealand. That report (Part 1 of the Public Health Risks Associated with Transport Emissions in New Zealand) identified critical gaps, with the need to better understand the health impacts of exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions from on-road motor vehicles at number one.
This report assesses the likely improvements in air pollution health impacts associated with meeting the targets for on-road vehicle greenhouse gas emissions in Te hau mārohi ki anamata | Aotearoa New Zealand’s First Emissions Reduction Plan. The key steps undertaken in the assessment were:
- Estimating the air pollution health impacts and social costs of motor vehicle emissions in 2019 to establish the baseline
- Assessing the change in motor vehicle emissions between 2019 and 2035 for business as usual (BAU) and scenarios representing the achievement of the various ERP targets (the scenarios)
- Calculating the associated air pollution health impacts and social costs of motor vehicle emissions in 2035 for BAU and the scenarios.
Public Health Risk associated with Transport Emissions in NZ: Part 2 Road Transport Emission Trends [PDF, 1.3 MB]
Contaminants of potential human health concern in wastewater and stormwater
Municipal wastewater and urban stormwater contain a wide variety of microbiological and chemical contaminants that may be of concern for human health. The presence and concentrations of specific contaminants can vary significantly depending on characteristics of the area, the nature and integrity of the network, and the climate. Based on a review of international iterature, this report identifies nine classes of contaminants present in wastewater and/or stormwater that are known to be, or highly likely to be, a human health hazard. Some of these contaminants and their associated health effects have long been recognised, but other 'emerging compounds' have not been well characterised and the potential health impacts are not well understood. To determine the potential risks to public health in Aotearoa New Zealand, further analysis is required to determine their presence in our wastewater and stormwater, understand their removal by locally-relevant treatment processes and consider the route and magnitude of exposure, in order to undertake specific risk characterisation and assessment.
Review of contaminants of potential human health concern in wastewater and stormwater [PDF, 4.2 MB]
2022 Revisions to the alert-level framework for planktonic cyanobacteria in the ‘New Zealand Guidelines for Cyanobacteria in Recreational Freshwaters’
The ‘Interim New Zealand Guidelines for Cyanobacteria in Recreational Fresh Waters’ were released 2009. In 2018, the Recreational Cyanobacteria Guidelines were reviewed, with one of the recommendations being improvements to the alert-level framework (ALF) for planktonic cyanobacteria. The aim of the project was to revise the ALF for managing planktonic cyanobacteria in recreational waterbodies in-line with recommendations from the 2018 review. The majority of end-users who participated in the survey did not support the name change and it is recommended that it remains as is (a traffic light system).
2022 Revisions to the alert-level framework for planktonic cyanobacteria in the ‘New Zealand Guidelines for Cyanobacteria in Recreational Freshwaters’ [PDF, 1.1 MB]
Feasibility of assessing mycotoxin exposure in the indoor environment using wastewater-based epidemiology
Many New Zealand homes are known to suffer from mould and dampness. This may pose a health hazard due to the production of fungal infections, or mycoses, but also due to the production of toxic chemicals known as mycotoxins. Mycotoxin exposure in humans is usually associated with contaminated foods, but can also occur through inhalation and dermal contact in mould contaminated indoor environments. Traditional methods for assessing human exposure to mycotoxins primarily focus on dietary exposure. This report assesses the feasibility of specifically assessing exposure to mycotoxins present in the indoor environment using wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE).
Feasibility of assessing mycotoxin exposure in the indoor environment using wastewater-based epidemiology [PDF, 2.9 MB]
Climate change effects on marine harmful algal blooms in Aotearoa NZ
Harmful algae blooms (HABs) occur world-wide and Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced its share of significant bloom events. This report reviews how climate change will likely impact marine HABs in Aotearoa New Zealand and how these changes could affect public health.
Climate change effects on marine harmful algal blooms in Aotearoa NZ [PDF, 1.3 MB]
Climate change is already impacting freshwaters in Aotearoa New Zealand, and cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are expected to flourish with continued climate change. Many cyanobacteria species produce toxins that pose a health risk to animals and humans through physical contact, or by consuming them via contaminated water or aquatic foodstuffs. This review assesses the impact climate change will likely have on problematic cyanobacteria in Aotearoa New Zealand and how these changes could impact human health.
Climate change and toxic freshwater cyanobacteria in Aotearoa NZ [PDF, 1.8 MB]
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.
Public Health Risks Associated with Discharges to Air from Agriculture in New Zealand: Scoping Review [PDF, 1.2 MB]
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]
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
Decontamination of mould-affect environments report [PDF, 681 KB]
Public Health Risks associated with Transport Emissions in NZ: Part 1 Stocktake and Gap Analysis
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.
Public Health Risks associated with Transport Emissions in NZ report: Part 1 Stocktake and Gap Analysis [PDF, 1.9 MB]
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.
From Health Sector Waste Minimisation Towards a Circular Economy(external link)