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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
&
CSIRO Atmospheric Research

13 February 2003

Wanted: Volunteers For Launceston Air Quality Survey


Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and CSIRO today called on Launceston residents to participate in an important new study that aims to determine the health impact of wood smoke pollution in the local area.

Dr Kemp said the $150,000 study – funded under the Federal Government’s Natural Heritage Trust and to be conducted by researchers from CSIRO Atmospheric Research – will provide valuable scientific data to help better manage wood smoke pollution in Launceston which has the worst air quality of any Australian city during winter.

“About half the residents of Launceston rely on woodheaters as their main source of heating, which has been identified as the main source of pollution in the area,” Dr Kemp said.

CSIRO principal project scientist, Rob Gillett, said around 75 people were needed to participate in the study who will wear a small gas sampler on their lapel for a week for the rest of the summer and again in winter, to measure their exposure to wood smoke pollutants during their daily activities.

“It will give us a better idea about the type and level of chemicals they are being exposed to,” Mr Gillett said.

He said the sampler was about the size of a pen and would be worn during two sample periods held in summer and winter.

He said participants would need to enter information into a journal on the type of heating they use, what wood they burn and for how long.

“They would also have two other gas samplers installed inside and outside their home to measure the level of chemicals inside and outside the house. This will help determine the relationship between outdoor and indoor wood smoke and personal exposure to these emissions,” Mr Gillett said.

“Ideally, we are looking to find 25 people without woodheaters, 25 with new low emissions woodheaters, and 25 people who use old-style woodheaters so we can compare the different levels of pollutants in and outside various homes and throughout the city.

“We are also particularly keen to find people who don’t smoke, are not in the process of painting their houses, and who are not exposed to chemicals in their workplace, so we don’t confound the study with other chemicals.”

Mr Gillett said the findings are expected later this year with participants given their personal results.

The findings will provide valuable data on exposure levels and be used to develop recommendations on the best heaters to use, what type of wood produces the least amount of emissions, and how it should be burned to minimize health impacts.

“Important progress is already underway to improve Launceston’s air quality under the Federal Government’s $2.05 million Launceston Woodheater Replacement Program which has helped to significantly reduce air pollution in the area by 50% last winter,” Dr Kemp said

“Through the replacement program, we have provided $500 rebates to nearly 1000 people to help them afford to replace their woodheaters with electric and other low emissions technology to improve air quality.”

Since 1996, the Federal Government has spent more than $18 million on a range of projects to improve air quality, including $15 million on the NHT Air Pollution in Major Cities Program under which the current study in Launceston is funded.

Launceston residents interested in participating in the air quality study should contact Rosemary Norwood at Environment Australia on (03) 6323 3305, by fax on (03) 6323 3385 or email rosemary.norwood@launceston.tas.gov.au, or Rob Gillett at CSIRO Atmospheric Research on (03) 9239 4652, fax (03) 9239 4444 or email rob.gillett@csiro.au.

Media Contacts:
Dr Peter Poggioli, Dr Kemp’s Office (02) 6277 7640 or (0412) 970 063
Rob Gillett, CSIRO (03) 9239 4652

Commonwealth of Australia