‘Hazardous’ Melbourne air considered worst in the world

Matt Woodley

14/01/2020 4:07:47 PM

Lingering bushfire smoke has blanketed the city and prompted public health warnings.

Person wearing a face mask in Melbourne.
Particulate Matters 2.5, one of the most harmful air pollutants, peaked at 470 µg/m3 on Tuesday morning. (Image: AAP)

Conditions have been so poor that Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Melbourne’s air quality was the worst in the world this week, leading to a categorisation of ‘hazardous’ by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The harmful conditions reached their nadir in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when Particulate Matters 2.5 (PM2.5), one of the most harmful air pollutants, peaked at 470 µg/m3. The 24-hour average of 233.6 µg/m3 on Tuesday is nearly 10 times higher than World Health Organization guidelines.
Ambulance Victoria reported 110 callouts related to breathing issues from midnight to 11.00 am on Tuesday, 66% higher than average, while Australian Open officials postponed qualifying matches and practice sessions due to the pollution. 

People with asthma, who are pregnant, over the age of 65 or under the age of 14 have been advised to limit time spent in the smoke, while the ABC has reported ‘unprecedented’ demand for P2 face masks.
Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos, who in the past has advised the Victorian Government on air-quality-related health issues, previously told newsGP figures like those currently found in Melbourne are ‘alarming and dangerous’.
‘Particularly in populations who have high exposure, GPs may be confronted with an increased number of patients coming in with asthma attacks, increasing angina, respiratory problems, bronchitis, allergies, and sinusitis,’ she said.
‘It’s important to talk to them about prevention, avoiding the air pollution as much as possible, and starting preventive asthma medication earlier if they suffer asthma, not waiting until they’re unwell.
‘Weeks of exposure in pregnancy – which we’re likely to see with these bushfires – can impact the unborn child as it increases the risk of low birthweight.
‘The closer you are to the smoke, the worse it is. There is no safe level of air pollutants. If possible, the best advice is to keep away and reduce your exposure.’
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