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April 2018

Health burden associated with fire smoke in Sydney, 2001–2013

Joshua A Horsley, Richard A Broome, Fay H Johnston, Martin Cope and Geoffrey G Morgan

What did the study find?

The study looked at hospitalisation rates and deaths associated with planned hazard reduction burns and  bushfire events in Sydney between 2001 and 2013. Specifically, it looked at periods when particulate matter at the 2.5 micrometer size (PM2.5) was high due to smoke from these events. The study found that the smoke was associated with 197 premature deaths, 436 cardiovascular hospitalisations, and 787 respiratory hospitalisations.


Why does it matter?

Short-term exposure to air pollution acts as an additional stress on the human body and exacerbate existing health conditions. Additional deaths caused by air pollution are more likely to occur in vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

The study indicates that a substantial heath burden is associated with the indirect effects of smoke from bushfires and hazard reduction burns. The authors recommend that the health risks of fire smoke pollution be factored into managing fires through better collaboration between health, environment, and fire management agencies.

CAR members involved in this study

  • Richard Broome

  • Fay Johnston

  • Martin Cope

  • Geoff Morgan

Media and related coverage of this study 

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