Clearing the Air: The Silent Perils of Air Pollution

Air pollution can alter the regulation of immune systems, stunt lung development, and increase blood pressure, demonstrating that even at a young age, human immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems are negatively impacted by exposure. Even before birth, the growth, development, and overall health of unborn babies is impacted. So what can we do about it?

Seeing the Smoke

We spent long periods shrouded in smoke due to the 2019-2020 bushfires that burned upwards of 12 million hectares. In addition to the tragic loss of life and devastation to ecosystems and infrastructure, there were significant levels of smoke exposure across Australia. The lives lost as a direct result are likely to number in the hundreds. Approximately 10 million people experienced elevated concentrations of fine particles on account of the recent fires, exposed to an air quality equivalent to smoking between 20 to 40 cigarettes. These ultrafine particles, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (a ninth of a grain of sand), are referred to as PM2.5 particles. Following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended that 5% of public land should be burned annually to reduce the risk of catastrophic bushfires. While protective against large, uncontrollable bushfires, these prescribed burns produce smoke that can have a significant impact on health.