Human exposure to harmful contaminants from vehicles

Author: Deborah Ryan, Sharon Atkins, Rob Hannaby, and Keith Hastings

Source: Pattle Delamore Partners Ltd, Transport Agency, Jacobs New Zealand Ltd

Year: 2019



The New Zealand Transport Agency (the Agency) is developing its evidence base to respond to the New Zealand Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport 2018, Environment Strategic Priority. The GPS includes reporting measures for the national land transport objective of: 

‘a land transport system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as well as adverse effects on the local environment and public health’

Harmful effects of contaminants from vehicles on human health range from breathing problems to premature death of susceptible people. It was found that 22% of all social costs from anthropogenic air pollution are attributed to motor vehicles. More than 256 people in New Zealand are estimated to die prematurely every year due to emissions from motor vehicles (Kuschel et al. 2012).

The Agency has invested in tools to support reporting for the GPS measures. Reporting requires estimating the tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and harmful emissions; and predicting exposure to harmful air pollutants from land transport. Applications also include tracking progress over time with the Transport Outcomes Framework outcomes for ‘healthy & safe people’ and ‘environmental sustainability’ developed by the Ministry of Transport (2018).

The new tools for estimating exposure to harmful emissions have been built up from the Agency’s investment in the National Vehicle Emissions Database (NVED). The NVED is an automated tool that calculates and maps both harmful air pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions. The potentially harmful contaminants estimated within the tool are nitrogen dioxide (NO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter as PM10 and PM2.5. The exposure estimate component of the work is focused on NO2, PM10 and PM2.5.

The tool estimates emissions from all public roads throughout New Zealand and is being updated on an annual basis to monitor and report on trends.

This paper explores the add-ons to the NVED tool to enable reporting of transport emissions, which are being used to inform and shape transport strategic interventions to reduce the adverse impacts of greenhouse gases and harmful emissions from transport.


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