Benzo(a)pyrene concentrations

  • Image, benzoaprene concentrations.

    2018 air indicators are now available

    Benzo(a)pyrene is an organic compound mainly emitted from burning wood or coal for home heating. Vehicles and some industrial processes also emit this. Benzo(a)pyrene can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. It is also associated with some forms of cancer and harmful developmental and reproductive effects.

    We classified Benzo(a)pyrene concentrations as supporting information.

    Key findings

    Airborne benzo(a)pyrene concentrations at some urban sites may exceed the Ministry for the Environment’s long-term (annual) guideline.

    • In the years when Christchurch and Timaru were monitored (2009 and 2007, respectively), benzo(a)pyrene concentrations ‘likely’ exceeded the guideline.

    Definition and methodology

    We compare annual concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene (nanograms per cubic metre, ng/m3) with the Ministry for the Environment’s 2002 Ambient Air Quality Guidelines. Exceedances occur when concentrations are above 0.3 ng/m3.

    The Ministry’s guideline recommends a level of protection against health risks from exposure to benzo(a)pyrene. It does not provide complete protection, and adverse health effects can occur at concentrations below the guideline.

    Benzo(a)pyrene concentrations are determined from studies using screening methods and/or are conducted over time frames that cannot be compared directly with the guideline. This monitoring provides good information on benzo(a)pyrene concentrations and can indicate whether the annual guideline was exceeded, so we report by ‘likely’ exceedances.

    Environment Canterbury Regional Council plans to update the Christchurch information.

    Data quality

    We classified Benzo(a)pyrene concentrations as supporting information.


     This supporting information is a partial measure of the ‘Airborne organic compounds of concern to human health’ topic.


     The accuracy of the data source is of medium quality.

    See Data quality information for more detail.


    Published 21 October 2015

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