Other areas of work
On this page you will find information on other areas of work that the Health Protection Team does, such as:
- Air Quality
- Solaria (also known as sunbeds/sunlamps/artificial tanning devices)
- Waste Management
Clean air is a basic requirement of human health and wellbeing. Our Health Protection Officers:
- work with councils, often within the Resource Management Act framework, to manage air quality and pollution to to protect communities and the environment from the adverse effects of air pollution.
- provide information and advice to other agencies, businesses and the public on the adverse effects of poor air quality.
Air pollution can occur indoors, outdoors (‘ambient air’), in the city, the country, at leisure or at work. Common sources of air pollution in New Zealand are emissions from wood ands coal fires for home heating, transport emissions (motor vehicles), open burning, discharges from industrial sources and natural sources (such as windblown dust, pollen, volcanic ash and sea spray). Unflued gas heaters produce a number of pollutants as a result of combustion and can potentially harm your health.
Air pollution, caused by natural and manmade sources, can cause serious health problems. Air pollution can irritate the eyes, throat and lungs. Burning eyes, cough and chest tightness are common with exposure to high levels of air pollution. People who have heart disease, such as angina (chest pain), or lung disease, such as asthma or emphysema, may be very sensitive to air pollution exposure, and may notice symptoms when others do not.
Managing and Monitoring Air Quality
The management requirements for air quality are primarily outlined under the Resource Management Act (1991) and implemented through national environmental standards for air quality which sets limits for allowable levels of air pollution and regional planning (Regional Policy Statements and Regional Plan Rules). Ministry for the Environment develops national indicators and strategies on air quality.
Air quality is measured at monitoring stations throughout New Zealand. Air quality data is collected by regional councils and unitary authorities, and reported to the Ministry for the Environment. Hawkes Bay Regional Council is responsible for carrying out environmental monitoring of air quality against National Environmental Standards. Regional councils are required to identify areas where air quality is likely, or known, to exceed the standards – these areas are known as airsheds. Regional councils must give public notice if the ambient air quality standard for a contaminant is breached in an airshed in its region.
The Health Protection Team provides health risk assessment and health advice for housing that may be unsafe or unhealth in collaboration with other agencies. Our team works with agencies such as local councils and WorkSafe. Some of the issues we can help with include providing advice on:
- hazardous substances and building materials (such as asbestos and lead paint)
- mould and removal and advice for GPs
- drinking-water supply and sanitary facilities
- indoor climate (temperature, humidity, air movement and pollution, light, noise, radiation)
- conduct sampling and provide advice and information when someone has an illness associated with housing problems such as raised blood lead level or legionellosis (click here for information on disease notifications such as these)
- work with local councils if there are concerns that a property is insanitary (risk to someone’s health)
- work with other agencies to ensure elderly or otherwise vulnerable members of the community are safe and well within their homes.
Noise in the environment can be a risk to the health of people and communities. It can be defined as unwanted or undesirable sound and can affect an individual or a community’s health, well-being and enjoyment of their surroundings.
The Health Protection Team does not undertake noise control activities and has no legal powers to control noise. However they are required by the Ministry of Health to liaise with councils about the establishment of policies and local noise limits for activities in land use zones. The Health Protection Team will highlight potential noise issues in submissions on resource consents where the health of people and communities may be affected.
Making a complaint about noise
There may be noise in your neighbourhood that you think is annoying, for example, a noisy party, a building site or a neighbour who uses noisy machinery at night. Call the Environmental Team at your local council. Local Authorities have statutory powers to control noise under the Resource Management Act.
- responding to radiation inquiries and complaints;
- reviewing resource consent applications relating to ionising and non-ionising radiation; and
- responding to radiation emergencies (with support from the NCRS) if necessary.
We also do some work in relation to solaria (sunbeds).
Ionising radiation (sometimes called ‘radioactive’) is radiation which has sufficient energy to knock electrons out of (ionise) atoms. X-rays and gamma rays are types of ionising radiation, as are the particulate radiations of alpha and beta particles that are found in some types of nuclear decay. Radiation Safety Act 2016 and the Radiation Safety Regulations 2016 is the legislation that controls all dealings with ionising radiation, this is administered by the Ministry of Health’s Office of Radiation Safety (ORS). Click here for health information on ionising radiation.
Non-ionising radiation includes electromagnetic fields in the form of extremely low frequency fields. Visible light (including lasers), microwave (including microwave ovens and cell-phone transmissions), radiofrequency fields, ultra violet and infrared are types of non-ionising radiation. Click here for health information on non-ionising radiation.
Use of solaria (also known as sunbeds, sunlamps and artificial tanning devices) is never recommended as it increases your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. It is illegal (under Part 5 of the Health Act 1956) for sunbed operators to allow under-18s to use a sunbed.
The Health Protection Team do checks on compliance with the voluntary guidelines for sunbed operators, set out in the standard AS/NZS 2635:2008 Solaria for cosmetic purposes and provide information to operators on best practice to reduce the public health risks from using solaria.
Waste disposal and treatment facilities inappropriately managed can pose a threat to public health. Liquid and solid wastes may contain hazardous and infectious materials and mismanaged waste sites can also provide an excellent environment to support pathogens and disease vectors (rats, flies).
Refuse collection and disposal is primarily the responsibility of territorial authorities and regional councils. Contact your local authority to find out how to dispose of different types of waste safely and check out the Pollution and Waste information on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council website.
- works with regional and local councils on planning and resource consent processes, surveillance, monitoring and compliance of significant public risks (such as the escape of landfill gas and leachate and contamination of rivers and beaches due to sewage effluent) in waste management and general information gathering.
- makes formal submissions on any waste disposal/recycling bylaws and makes submission on land use consents issued for waste disposal purposes to ensure public health is protected during the operation of a site and that waste is managed in such a way that the effects on public health of these contaminants are minimised.
- risk assesses and deals effectively with incidents and complaints in relation to waste facilities in order to minimise risk to public health.
Waste management is dealt with under several pieces of legislation, namely:
- The Health Act 1956 requires territorial authorities to provide for sanitary works including the collection and disposal of refuse and other offensive matter, and places a duty on territorial authorities to determine and abate any nuisance or condition likely to be injurious to health or offensive.
- The Resource Management Act 1991 is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources through the management and control of the discharge of contaminants into / onto land, air, water and issue of land use permits. This Act provides for the control of adverse effects on the environment, which includes effects on the health of people and communities.
- The Local Government Act 1974 (particularly Part 31) specifies refuse collection and disposal responsibilities for territorial authorities.
- The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 encourages a reduction in the amount of waste we generate and dispose of in New Zealand. The aim is to reduce the environmental harm of waste and provide economic, social and cultural benefits for New Zealand.