National approach “urgently needed’ for smoke pollution

Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis
24 February 2020

Experts are calling for an independent national expert committee on air pollution and health protection to be urgently established following the catastrophic bushfire season in Australia.

In a paper published online today by the Medical Journal of Australia they also warn Australia can't wait for the results of the Bushfires Royal Commission to act on this vital health issue.  

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) and other leading universities are calling for evidence-based, accurate, practical and consistent advice on health protection against bushfire smoke.

Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis, Professor of Global Environmental Health at ANU, said Australia needs a holistic approach to managing the risks of bushfires and smoke.

"We need to be better prepared for the next bushfire season which is not far away. We can't wait until the results of a royal commission are published. We should take action now - the last season highlighted the urgency," said Professor Vardoulakis.

Professor Vardoulakis said current health protection advice related to bushfire smoke focuses on short-term measures and is "impractical" over the longer periods of high air pollution levels such as those experienced over the summer.

"Telling people to stay indoors or reduce physical activities outdoors isn't sufficient. Smoke pollution levels vary over hours and days and can change quickly. For this reason, we need hourly averaged particulate air pollution - PM2.5 data - reported in real-time," he said.

Read the full article in The Medical Journal of Australia, featuring commentary by Prof Sotiris Vardoulakis