Australia needs a public health plan to address bushfire smoke impacts, cardiologist says

A photograph of a tree going up in flames in a bushfire, with thick smoke billowing behind it.
17 June 2021

Governments must prepare public health systems to respond to the severe health effects of air pollution from bushfire smoke, according to a new report.

The report, released on Thursday by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, has explored three case studies of harm to health from bushfires, including Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, and events in Canada and Brazil.

It has argued that preparation, adaptation, and mitigation are needed to protect people from the health risks of smoke, which will increase alongside climate change-fuelled bushfires.

Cardiologist Dr Arnagretta Hunter, from the Australian National University’s Medical School, was interviewed for the report. She said Australia must have a public health plan that addresses the impact of smoke.

“The health effects of the bushfire smoke during Black Summer are evident in published data, and in first-hand experience of Canberra’s thick smoke. You couldn’t go outside, you couldn’t breathe the air, water supplies were disrupted, plants and animals suffered and died,” she said.

“We simply can’t afford to go through another fire season without a public health plan that addresses the impact of smoke.”

Read the full article on The Mandarin website, featuring Dr Arnagretta Hunter