Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pat Palmer: The bureaucratic beat-up on home fires and wood burners


In 2007 the Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand report (HAPiNZ) from the Ministry for the Environment estimated that fine particles (PM10) in the air in New Zealand caused 1,170 premature deaths each year. 

This estimate was based on an epidemiological study from Europe and assumed that PM10 from all sources - blast furnaces, diesel trucks, petrochemical industries, or from your toaster - are all equally toxic. Most PM10 in the New Zealand air has been fairly reliably measured as coming from home fires.

During the past 20 years the concentration of PM10 in, Christchurch air has about halved. There is no doubt about this. The scientists who measure the concentration in Christchurch are very good scientists.

Acting on the advice of the 30 or so air quality scientists advising the Ministry for the Environment writing in the Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (HAPiNZ) reports, Wilton and Familton, who work for the Canterbury Regional Council (ECan), concluded that because the toxic PM10 had gone down so much - there were only 150 admissions to hospital for respiratory disease in 2011 compared with 260 in 2001 and only 190 deaths from respiratory disease in 2011 compared with 320 in 2001 - these huge benefits were the result of ECan policies to reduce PM10 from home fires and log burners.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

But hang on. These zealous scientists working for ECan and Ministry for the Environment did not count the actual numbers of the sick and the dead. They only estimated the number, using a formula from the HAPiNZ reports.

The Ministry of Health statistics from the Canterbury District Health Board show a different story. They show that the actual number of sick and dead in Christchurch had not gone down as ECan had claimed .In fact, the number had not decreased - it had gone up!

There were not a hundred fewer deaths as they had claimed, but around 100 more.

There were not 100 fewer hospital admissions as they had claimed, but around 1500 more.

You can decide which to believe.

Whatever the facts may show about the toxicity of PM10, they clearly show that reducing concentrations of PM10 in Christchurch by putting out home fires and log burners has not resulted in improvements in respiratory health.

This experiment has cost Christchurch people hundreds of millions of dollars.

ECan is dead set on repeating it in Timaru.

Pat Palmer is a foundation member of Association for Independent Research who has been studying the relationship between air pollution in Christchurch and claimed health effects since 1996.

4 comments:

David Curl said...

Wait up. "But hang on. These zealous scientists working for ECan and Ministry for the Environment did not count the actual numbers of the sick and the dead. They only estimated the number, using a formula from the HAPiNZ report." The Minstry of health do not count the actual numbers of hospital admissions when they release their figure on smoking related deaths. They simply rejig the estimates based on a 1970s US based research paper. The practise is worldwide and accepted for decades. It is deceitful but then again most medical research is started to validate a certain outcome and as such trus facts would only get in the way.

Robert Mann said...

Author Palmer is right to condemn the conflation of smoke from domestic woodburning with the ultra-fine particles from modern diesels – < 100nm i.e. < 0.1 micrometer. UFP penetrate the deep lung far more efficiently, and their much larger surface area (per g of particles) is far more likely to transport into the deep lung such cancer-causing pollutants as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Woodstoves designed during the past 3 decades are – IF competently operated with dry wood – not reasonably banned. A curious fanaticism has gripped Christchurch, as has previously happened on a different matter.
As a long-time advisor to successive Ministers of Health, I never saw any reasons to ban woodstoves.

Robert Mann

Peter Caulton said...

But surely we would all run amok if the nanny state did not regulate us children.You had a chance to change that tonight. Did you? I thought not. Then suck it up.

Auntie Podes said...

@ P.Caulton - "But surely we would all run amok if the nanny state did not regulate us children.You had a chance to change that tonight."
Actually of course there was no such opportunity. Change for changes sake is a mistake. To change from Bill to Taxinda would have been an act of lunacy - and, incidentally, the escalation of nanny-ism from a mildly pink to a far worse, communistic variety.