International experts to study health effects of wood smoke

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Wellington, July 12 (IANS) Pollution experts from around the world will gather in New Zealand later this month to study ways to improve public health in areas affected by wood smoke.

Leading researchers in atmospheric wood smoke and its impact on health from the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Australia and New Zealand would launch the International Wood Smoke Research Network on July 26, the government's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said on Tuesday.

Wood burning for heating is the primary cause of poor air quality in New Zealand, NIWA air quality scientist Ian Longley said in a statement.

However, the decision to form the network stemmed from limited and uncertain evidence about how wood smoke affected health and what had been gained by introducing regulations on their use, Xinhua news agency reported.

"We know that strict regulations on wood burners have had mixed results, with air quality improving slowly in some towns, but hardly at all in others," said Longley.

"Studies in North America, Europe and Australia have indicated great potential from wood burner management, but the results have been inconsistent."

A major factor in the inconsistent results has been the small scale and isolation of each study, as well as interference from other pollutant sources.

The network aimed to design a large-scale research and intervention program with input from other interested groups who were disproportionately affected.

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