ARMIDALE’S woodsmoke readings for June and July were higher than any of the previous four years, according to Greens councillor Dorothy Robinson.
Dr Robinson said the higher readings would have an adverse effect on the town's health and economic growth prospects.
“Woodsmoke increases the risk of colds and flu, night-time coughs, breathing difficulties, inner-ear infections, strokes, heart attacks and cancers,” she said.
The daily average concentrations of PM2.5 pollution exceeded the National Environmental Protection Measure advisory level on 28 days in 2011, 37 days in 2010 and 25 days in 2009.
The NEPM advises that daily average concentrations of PM2.5 pollution remain below 25 micrograms per cubic metre, which is used as the national standard.
Armidale Dumaresq Council sustainability co-ordinator Carol Davies said the issue needed to be covered by all levels of government.
“Council is working as an advocate to encourage a whole of government approach as we believe this is what is required if we are to make major gains in significantly reducing the particulate matter in Armidale and other areas with similar problems,” she said.
Mrs Davies said more residents were becoming aware of the issue and making efforts to minimise the generation of woodsmoke.
“More people are noticing smoky chimneys and are operating their wood heaters so they don't produce excessive smoke, and that's a good thing,” she said.
“The biggest contributor to solving the problem is how people use their wood heaters. It appears more residents are aware of the problem and are working with Council to help alleviate it.”
Dr Robinson said tighter standards for wood heater usage was the solution to the woodsmoke issue.
“New technologies, including five and six-star heat pumps, pellet heaters, as well as insulation and passive solar design for new houses all have similar or even lower costs than buying firewood,” she said.
“However, even if new standards were adopted tomorrow, it will be many years before Armidale's woodsmoke falls to levels that will not damage our health.
“Recent technological advances could provide attractive affordable heating without damaging our health, or the health of our children.”