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Inquiry Launched into Air Quality Impacts of Bushfire Smoke and Drought

An NSW Parliamentary Committee will inquire into the health impacts of exposure to poor levels of air quality caused by bushfire smoke and drought, after Terms of Reference drafted by Greens MP and Health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann  were agreed to this week. 

The inquiry will investigate the effectiveness of the response of NSW Health to recent hazardous air quality levels including the provision of protective materials such as face masks and air purifiers, the adequacy of public information including ensuring the safety of at-risk groups. 

“There are concerns that the government’s response to the bushfire smoke crisis was inadequate, specifically about whether enough was done to inform people about the risks of bushfire smoke and what to do to stay safe. That Inquiry will look into what more could be done,” said Ms Faehrmann

“We know that across the state there were shortages of P2 masks while emergency departments saw a spike in people presenting with respiratory issues. Clearly the government was unprepared.

“Long term exposure to bushfire smoke may have long-term negative impacts, however there is very little research in this area because it has never happened at this scale before. 

“Climate change means we can expect more intense bushfires and droughts. This Inquiry will provide more information regarding the impacts of long-term exposure to PM2.5 and what more the Government and the public can be doing to minimise the risks of long-term exposure to poor air quality,” said Ms Faehrmann. 

Inquiry Terms of Reference

Inquiry into the health impacts of exposure to poor levels of air quality resulting from bushfires and drought 

That Portfolio Committee No.2 - Health inquire and report on: 

1. The health impacts of exposure to poor levels of air quality resulting from bushfires and drought including:  The impact on at-risk groups including children, pregnant women, people with asthma and other respiratory-related illnesses, the elderly and other high-risk groups as well as vulnerable companion animals;  The impact on people who are exposed to poor outdoor air quality in the workplace;  The long term impacts of exposure; and  The effectiveness of various protective materials and strategies to mitigate the health impacts of exposure. 

2. The effectiveness of the NSW Government to plan for and improve air quality including:

The measurement, reporting and public awareness; The provision of various protective materials including face masks and air purifiers; The ability to ensure the health of at-risk groups; The suitability of work health and safety regulations, industrial provisions and related guidelines; and The capacity to respond within existing resources and ongoing efficiency dividends 

3. Any other related matters

Photo by Moruya Rural Fire Brigade