It is crucial that bushfire smoke is identified now as a health emergency and that people, especially those who are vulnerable, receive good advice and medical services for what is, according to the AMA, a new and possibly fatal health risk.
Text messaging has been effective for fire warnings – now we need it for protecting against smoke – what to do and warnings when air quality is poor.
The Federal Government is providing face masks for those at the frontline but the Chief Medical Officer warns that masks may not be effective for the general public and that avoiding exposure is essential, especially for vulnerable groups.
Vast areas across the country have been blanketed in smoke that has travelled, in some instances, hundreds of kilometers.
What we don’t know is the likely effects of longer-term exposure being experienced now – 6 weeks to date with more likely.
Here’s what we do know about this smoke:
- It is an irritating pollutant that exacerbates respiratory illnesses.
- Those most at risk are:
- people over 65
- children up to 14
- pregnant women (RANZCOG advises that exposure to air pollution in pregnancy has been linked to increased rates of preterm birth, decreased birth weight, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes)
- people with existing heart or lung conditions
- We can expect fire fighters to be impacted, many of whom have spent weeks in the thickest smoke.