Australia always has been exposed to bushfires but the past couple months, Australia has been ravaged by the worst wildfires seen in decades.
Record breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have caused a series of massive bush fires all over Australia. 10 million hectares have burned down, an area larger than many countries. Thousand animals got killed, homes got destroyed and people died.
There have been fires in every Australian State but New South Wales and Victoria have been worst affected.
You can’t only see and feel the fires in the bush and parks but also in Australia’s major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. The smoke from the fires has become a major hazard that effects not only Australia but also other countries such as New Zealand.
But how bad is the smoke of the fires really? And can it really be worse than having a cigarette?
„With denser smoke haze and longer periods that people endure smoke inhalation, there is a much higher risk that previously healthy people will face developing serious illness,“ Dr Bartone said
Even healthy people can have breathing issues and feel irritations in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Fortunately most healthy people can handle short-term exposure to air pollution. But it can also lead to more serious incidents particularly for people with existing respiratory&heart conditions, children under 14, older people and for pregnant women.
After the smoke haze hit Melbourne on Monday, the ambulance of Victoria recorded a 51% increase in calls for breathing difficulties. Melbourne reportedly had the worst air quality in the world on the 14th of January, the air quality was the equivalent of smoking several cigarettes.
Dr Zappala said that anyone who develops breathlessness, chest tightness or a persistent cough should see their GP and not borrow someone else’s inhaler.
The long-term effects
But the long-term effects are not yet clear and it will be a while before we exactly know what they are.
Specialists have analyzed heavily polluted regions such as Africa or Asia. People in these regions have been exposed to high levels of airborne pollution for years. Specialists found out that long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk of several cancers and chronic health conditions like respiratory and heart disease. But bushfire smoke is different so we can only assume what the longterm consequences are.
„ It is uncertain how medium-term exposure to these sporadic bushfire pollutions events impact on long-term health,“ Dr Cowie from the University of New South Wales said.
How can I prevent myself?
The best way to protect yourself from bushfire smoke is through limiting your exposure.
If possible, try to stay indoors with the windows and doors shut to keep the smoke out and spend more time in air conditioned venues like shopping centres. Also avoid vigorous outdoor activity and see a GP if you have any form of breathing difficulties.
When it comes to protection, you can use a P2 mask. They can help filter out the fine particles in smoke but only if the masks fit correctly, it must form a tight seal around your face.
If you want to check the air quality in your home town simply follow this link to get information about the smoke and air quality.
We, from Englaon Television, are very upset about what is happening in our beautiful country right now. Being based in Melbourne we get to see every day how bad the air conditions really are. We want to help and spread awareness about the smoke that is currently surrounding Melbourne and other cities.