Poor Air Quality as a Result of Australia's Bushfires Poses a Serious Health Risk Globally

Bushfire smoke can travel hundreds of kilometres and it poses a range of health issues.  Whilst the fires have been occurring in Australia, the smoke has travelled globally, with reports of it impacting close neighbours, New Zealand and countries further afield including South America.

The smoke haze that has spread across the country as a result of the bushfires has dramatically affected the air quality. Over the last few months, air quality monitoring stations have recorded hazardous ratings for air quality, indicating that there is a high concentration of pollutants in the air. 

Is bushfire smoke bad for babies?

Those most likely to be affected by bushfire smoke include:

  • People with existing heart or lung conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic bronchitis
  • Pregnant women
  • Older people
  • Young children and babies

How to reduce exposure to bad Air Quality

To reduce exposure,  recommendations are available on using air purifiers and face masks to reduce risk from bushfire smoke.

Research on health impacts of Bushfire smoke

Initial research on air quality and fine particulate matter have occurred. 

However, what’s becoming clear is more research should be undertaken on the medium-long term impacts of the Bushfires and the smoke.  In answer to this Government is providing $5 million for bushfire related health research.

The medium-term health effects of the recent bushfires will be studied under two major research streams commissioned by the Government.

The Government will provide $5 million in total from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) under an open and competitive grant round.

  • $3 million for research into the physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure.
  • $2 million for research into the mental health impacts of bushfires on affected communities.

This research will collect information on the biological, psychological and behavioural impacts of prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke.

The data and evidence gathered will help to understand the lived experiences and coping strategies of people and communities heavily affected by bushfires

Wanngi enables people to track their symptoms and manage their own personal health record in one place and to be in control of with whom they share this information.

Even when these fires are over their effects will be felt far outside their regions.  While the physical damage is immediately apparent, the effect on the mental and physical health of firefighters, volunteers and landholders who have faced walls of flames for days on end, is currently less clear.

In addition, exposure to the smoke has become more widespread, with people both in the cities and regions suffering its effects.

Research on Bushfire smoke (Fine Particulate matter) indicates increased hospital admissions and ongoing chronic health conditions probably requiring repeated visits to doctors and specialists.  People will find it helpful to have their symptoms and health history on hand when seeking diagnosis from health professionals.

For any consumers involved in the NHMRC research initiatives or self monitoring themselves as result of bushfire smoke exposure,  Wanngi will be available to be part your health journey.


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