Scientists are measuring levels of potentially dangerous pollutants inside Kiwi homes.
A device invented by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (Niwa) to measure air quality, dubbed Pacman, is being used to test the air quality inside houses.
Pacman stands for Particles, Activity and Context Monitoring Autonomous Node and takes the form of a small box filled with air-quality measuring instruments.
A recent study by Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand found air pollution from fires, vehicles and industry kills 1170 people prematurely each year and carries an estimated $4.28 billion social cost.
Poor air quality affects the cardiovascular system and can cause respiratory diseases.
Niwa air quality researcher Guy Coulson said exposure to pollutants could be much higher indoors than outside.
"We spend about 80 per cent of our time indoors, so we need to know more about indoor air quality," he said.
The Pacman devices, which will be installed in up to 20 volunteer's homes, will monitor airborne particles, carbon dioxide levels, temperature and movement that can influence indoor air quality.
Initial measurements had shown cooking and wood-burning stoves could lead to very high levels of indoor pollutants.
"We want to know if exposure to short-lived, high levels of pollution are bad for you," Dr Coulson said.
"Can one five-minute exposure to very high levels of pollution have an impact on health.
"Pacman will be used to help us understand how many small airborne particles are in Kiwi homes, where they come from and what activities control their fate.
The highest measured concentrations so far had come from the poor use of wood-burning stoves and solid wood-burners.
Other sources of indoor pollution included incense, pesticides, pets and evaporation from solvents - pine scented cleaning products can react with sunlight and produce dangerous airborne particles.
Dr Coulson said understanding air pollution in the home was difficult because everyone used their home in a unique way.
"We aim to be able to tell whether the pollution comes from inside or outside the house, and to see if neighbours' wood-burners are influencing your indoor air quality as well."
Niwa said amateur air quality scientists could build their own Pacman, designed with open-source hardware and software and files that could be downloaded from here.
- APNZBy Brendan Manning Email Brendan