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Source: Auckland Council

Analysis of air quality results collected during the period of the NZ International Convention Centre fire last month have now been finalised.

Air quality within the smoke plume can be tested by analysing samples taken from two sites overnight on 22–23 October 2019. One sample comes from the council’s permanent Queen Street air quality monitoring station and another was taken adjacent to the SkyCity complex by Dr Joel Rindelaub (Research Fellow at the School of Chemical Sciences, University of Auckland). The GNS report analysed the all airborne matter found at both these sites.

The tests measured levels of PM, or particulate matter (PM10) the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, which exceeded National Environmental Standard for Air Quality for the first time in a decade on Wednesday 23 October. This only occurred inside the smoke plume, and when public alerts were in place advising people to avoid exposure to the smoke. By Thursday and Friday, the air quality was back to normal.

More on this can be found here on Our Auckland.

GNS Science experts have analysed the samples from the two sites and found that there were elevated levels of black carbon, zinc and arsenic within in the smoke plume. These results were expected from a large building fire, as construction materials like bitumen, treated and untreated timber all release particulate matter when burned. The levels of arsenic, resulting from the burning of treated timber, are not likely to result in significant health impacts given the relatively short time the levels were elevated.

Burning any material including paper, wood, coal or pellets for home heating fires releases airborne particulate matter. We recommend people always take appropriate precautions where there is smoke from any fire including making sure homes are well ventilated, ensure chimneys and fireplaces are regularly checked for safety, and never burn treated timber.

Read the full report here [PDF]

Please note it is not an official role of Auckland Councils to test the quality of the air during a fire, due to the position of this fire and our permanent Queen St air quality monitoring site, we were able to get a sample through the usual daily readings the site provides.