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ANU releases free factsheets for clear advice on smoke protection

Ian Bushnell 16 January 2020 15
Smoke haze in Canberra

More hazy summers are likely, says the ANU’s Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis. Photo: Region Media.

As Canberra continues to be shrouded in bushfire smoke, an expert from The Australian National University (ANU) has released free factsheets on how to best protect yourself from its hazards.

Leading air quality and health expert Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis from the ANU Research School of Population Health has developed the fact sheets and says there is an urgent need for more comprehensive and balanced health protection advice as Australians deal with unprecedented levels of bushfire smoke and the probability that it will become a common summer occurrence.

“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 this is not normal, and we need to urgently do more. People need to be able to access the best information out there simply and quickly.”

He said that in the current bushfire season, urban centres such as Canberra had been exposed to high levels of smoke over weeks and months and a rapid and well-targeted health protection response was required.

Bushfires and smoke had 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.

“The ANU factsheets provide the advice and practical tips urgently needed by people exposed to bushfire smoke in their daily lives for short and longer periods,” he said.

The information is designed to enable the public to make clear and informed decisions for dealing with our current and future hazy summers.

Professor Vardoulakis said he hoped the fact sheets would help people navigate the overwhelming cloud of information from health professionals, media and the public.

“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.

“They aim to provide evidence-based advice on the most practical and effective ways for protecting our health, as well as resources for further information and public health action.”

The factsheets include information for those more vulnerable to the smoke, as well as for healthy individuals, and address topics such as being active, facemasks, mental health and medication plans.

Access the free factsheets from the ANU.

Smoke advice

Factsheet advice from the ANU’s Research School of Population Health. Image: ANU.


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15 Responses to ANU releases free factsheets for clear advice on smoke protection
Sheridan Traise Brill Sheridan Traise Brill 8:28 am 18 Jan 20

One of the recommendations here is using the Air Rater app, which is also recommended on ACT Health’s website, however it gives extremely different readings than the readings on ACT Health’s page. Am I missing something??

    Sheridan Traise Brill Sheridan Traise Brill 8:32 am 18 Jan 20

    Currently, Air Rater says that the air quality in Weston Creek is “good”, with a reading of 1. Then there’s this from the ACT Health page

    Andrew Smith Andrew Smith 11:45 am 18 Jan 20

    Sheridan Traise Brill the normal ACT Health page is a rolling 24 hour average, their Beta page launched a week or two ago has hourly figures in a bar graph. AirRater takes the same recent/real time data plus weather and approximates for your location

    Sheridan Traise Brill Sheridan Traise Brill 11:50 am 18 Jan 20

    Andrew Smith thanks, that makes more sense now 😁

Invis.Abilities Invis.Abilities 9:01 pm 17 Jan 20

Given long term health impacts are still unclear, it may be harmful at this stage to reassure most people in sensitive groups that they will not experience any problems.

Two weeks ago the AMA advised that even healthy people are at risk of serious illness with the length and severity of this bushfire smoke.

Unfortunately health advice has grown less useful to minimise exposure, e.g.

-we cannot safely stay indoors when our homes, offices, shops and other public spaces are filled with hazardous smoke

-vulnerable groups do not have access/capacity to purchase air purifiers or cannot wear masks safely

-temporary relocation is not being suggested or supported

-people’s judgment of air quality differs greatly so now children in daycare are being encouraged to play outside even at hazardous levels

-differing advice such as RANZCOG warning pregnant women they are at risk of gestational diabetes and preterm birth (not just slightly reduced birth weight).

Carl Ostermann Carl Ostermann 8:28 pm 17 Jan 20

What I cannot understand is that Canberra had smoke and not fire! Do any of you people understand how the people of the disaster zones are a lot worse off than "YOU" And all I keep reading is... Poor Me!

    Paula Simcocks Paula Simcocks 10:52 pm 17 Jan 20

    Carl Ostermann to be clear I have been travelling back and forth from Canberra - to 2 fire zones - one much closer than Canberra - 1 km from fire front of Morton Fire, also 1 km from Fire near Braidwood, in both cases found air worse in Canberra. It must collect and be locked in by mountains but also reading how some fires give off suphur and nitrogen? And the stench of the smoke at times has been equivalent to putting your face over polyurethene tin. Also been to melb - picnic there. Trouble in Canberra is smoke continuing for days got into houses and no escape in public buildings - had big attack of asthma in westfield but breathed easy in small shopping centre.

    Sure some places can have very dense smoke but Canberra has also had no visibility at times like thick London fog. Remember fires on Clyde mountain and near Braidwood only about 30 km away in places. So in this case not ivory tower of privilege - just complaining

    Greg Miller Greg Miller 5:47 am 19 Jan 20

    Carl Ostermann just because one person's situation is worse than another's, doesn't mean the second person has no problems. Nor does it mean the second person doesn't assist the first (for example, by donating to fire services, Red Cross, etc) while complaining about their own situation.

    Carl Ostermann Carl Ostermann 9:44 pm 21 Jan 20

    Greg Miller Don't worry, the hail storm has changed peoples focus

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 11:15 am 17 Jan 20

I said from the beginning that people were not taking it seriously enough as a health issue. Particularly where children are concerned. We all love a bit of 'she'll be right' .

    David Jansen David Jansen 12:34 pm 17 Jan 20

    Kriso Hadskini my two year old has developed coughing fits just before NY. Pm2.5 readings inside my house were over 400 on the and days. My house was even sealed up and we have a Dyson air purifier.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 12:43 pm 17 Jan 20

    David Jansen Yep, it's no fire front but still a big public health issue.

Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 9:25 am 17 Jan 20

The all 10 are all very helpful guidelines however, do you think that it's good idea to have a battery operated radio and of cause, plenty of batteries as backup?

    Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 1:07 pm 17 Jan 20

    Frank Trapani if you think that power could fail or you might be evacuated then yes.

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 1:26 pm 17 Jan 20

    Robert Hawes , thank you. Yeah the way it goes we, need to be prepared for all the occasion..

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