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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

An extreme bushfire smoke pollution event: health impacts and public health challenges Volume 20 Issue 1-2

Anthony Kolbe, Kim L. Gilchrist

New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 20(2) 19–23 Published online: 25 February 2009

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About the author/s

Anthony Kolbe

Kim L. Gilchrist


Aims: To determine the health impacts of smoke and the effectiveness of public health advisories during a severe bushfire smoke event in Albury, NSW. Methods: The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change provided PM data. A computer-assisted telephone survey using random digit dialling was conducted following the smoke event to assess health impacts and the effectiveness of advisories. Results: The smoke event lasted 38 days. The maximum daily PM level was 415 μg/m. Public health advisories were based on alerts for air pollution issued by NSW Department of Health. From the survey, a total of 389 interviews were available for analysis. At least one health effect of the smoke was reported by 70% of respondents and 5% reported seeking medical treatment. Over 74% reported seeing, hearing or reading the health advisories. Behaviour change was significantly greater in this group (odds ratio = 2.74; 95% confidence interval 1.50–5.02). Conclusion: High rates of health effects may be experienced by populations exposed to bushfire smoke pollution. Public health advisories can support behaviour change to reduce exposure to bushfire smoke.