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Indoor Air. 2008 Dec;18(6):521-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2008.00554.x.

Sources of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in New Zealand homes: findings from a community randomized controlled trial of heater substitutions.

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  • 1He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, Wellington South, New Zealand.


Houses in New Zealand have inadequate space heating and a third of households use unflued gas heaters. As part of a large community intervention trial to improve space heating, we replaced ineffective heaters with more effective, non-polluting heaters. This paper assesses the contribution of heating and household factors to indoor NO2 in almost 350 homes and reports on the reduction in NO2 levels due to heater replacement. Homes using unflued gas heaters had more than three times the level of NO2 in living rooms [geometric mean ratio (GMR) = 3.35, 95% CI: 2.83-3.96, P < 0.001] than homes without unflued gas heaters, whereas homes using gas stove-tops had significantly elevated living room NO2 levels (GMR = 1.42, 95% CI: 1.05-1.93, P = 0.02). Homes with heat pumps, flued gas heating, or enclosed wood burners had significantly lower levels of NO2 in living areas and bedrooms. In homes that used unflued gas heaters as their main form of heating at baseline, the intervention was associated with a two-third (67%) reduction in NO2 levels in living rooms, when compared with homes that continued to use unflued gas heaters. Reducing the use of unflued gas heating would substantially lower NO2 exposure in New Zealand homes.


Understanding the factors influencing indoor NO2 levels is critical for the assessment and control of indoor air pollution. This study found that homes that used unflued gas combustion appliances for heating and cooking had higher NO2 levels compared with homes where other fuels were used. These findings require institutional incentives to increase the use of more effective, less polluting fuels, particularly in the home environment.

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