Long-term consequences of bushfire smoke are hazy
In previous years, Australians might have been exposed to bushfire smoke for a few days, or even a week. But this bushfire season is extreme in every respect. Smoke haze has now regularly featured in Australian weather reports for several weeks, stretching across months in some areas.
What we considered to be short-term exposure we must now call medium-term exposure.
Given this is a new phenomenon, we don’t know for sure what prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke could mean for future health. But here’s what air pollution and health data can tell us about the sorts of harms we might be looking at.
We know poor air quality is having immediate effects, from irritated eyes and throats, to more serious incidents requiring hospital admission – particularly for people with existing respiratory and heart conditions.
After the smoke haze hit Melbourne on Monday, Ambulance Victoria recorded a 51% increase in calls for breathing difficulties.
This aligns with Australian and international research on the acute effects of exposure to bushfire smoke.
But the long-term effects aren’t so clear.
Read the full story on The Conversation: We know bushfire smoke affects our health, but the long-term consequences are hazy