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Inquiry launched into impacts of fires on people’s health

A column of smoke from the fires could be seen as far away as Mullumbimby. Photo Ewan Willis.

The impact of the bushfires and exposure to poor air quality on peoples health will be examined as part of a NSW Parliamentary Committee inquiry.

The Terms of Reference, agreed to yesterday, were drafted by Greens MP and Health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann. It will inquire into the health impacts of exposure to poor levels of air quality caused by bushfire smoke and drought.

‘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.

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. 

‘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,’ she said.

‘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. 


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