New resources to inform Australians how to best manage bushfire smoke

Amanda Lyons

16/01/2020 4:24:23 PM

An expert in air quality has released a set of factsheets in an effort to provide evidence-based advice.

Canberra and Melbourne
Melbourne and Canberra have each recorded the worst air quality in the world in recent days. (Images: AAP)

Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season has so far caused 28 fatalities and burnt through millions of hectares, over a billion animals, almost 2000 homes.
It has also caused secondary health impacts across the country from the thick haze of smoke that has covered not just country areas directly affected by fire, but also the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
According to Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis, air quality and health expert from the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Population Health, this situation has led to a proliferation of health advice in the public arena around bushfire smoke that may be confusing and, at times, not even correct.
‘The existing public health advice on bushfire smoke is mainly tailored to brief air pollution episodes, typically lasting no longer than one or two days,’ Professor Vardoulakis said.
‘But in the current bushfire season, urban centres have been exposed to high levels of smoke over weeks and months. This new situation requires a rapid and well-targeted health protection response.’
To cut through the noise and combat confusing health messages, Professor Vardoulakis has developed and released a collection of evidence-based factsheets that are freely accessible online.
‘We need to urgently do more – people need to be able to access the best information out there simply and quickly,’ he said.
Professor Vardoulakis intends the factsheets to help people best take care of their respiratory health now and into the future.
‘These factsheets will clear a path for communities and people asking how they can plan daily life for the remainder of this unprecedented season and future summers,’ he said.
The information addresses some information specific to segments of the population more vulnerable to the smoke.
‘Understandably, bushfires and smoke have caused a lot of stress and anxiety in our communities, particularly among parents with young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with existing lung disease, heart disease or other chronic illness,’ Professor Vardoulakis said.
The factsheets also provide best-practice advice for healthy individuals, and address topics such as being active, use of facemasks, mental health care and maintaining medication plans.
The factsheets are available on the ANU website.
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