Bushfire smoke contains a mixture of gases and very fine particles that can be hazardous to health. Those most at risk are firefighters and outdoor workers.
The short-term health hazards include making asthma and chronic bronchitis/emphysema worse. People who suffer from chronic bronchitis/emphysema or heart conditions are at an increased risk and should take additional precautions.
Asthmatics may need to use their medications more often.
The World Health Organization Guidelines for good air quality is called the Air Quality Index (AQI)
An AQI less than 50 indicates that the air quality is good. At this low level, a person can spend time outdoors and air pollution will pose very little risk to their health. As the AQI number increases, so does the risk to human health.
People most at risk from particle pollution exposure include those with heart or lung disease (including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-COPD), older adults, and children. Research indicates that pregnant women, newborns, and people with certain health conditions, such as obesity or diabetes, also may be more susceptible to Particulate Matter (PM)-related effects.
When the AQI is above 200 it is likely that even healthy people may experience eye, throat and nose irritation, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Exposure needs to be avoided by staying indoors and running an air conditioner, keeping activity levels low and avoiding activities that make you breathe faster and deeper.
If you have concerns about exposure in your workplace contact your union. If you or others are experiencing any of these symptoms you should seek medical advice.
You can contact HSU NSW at: 1300 478 679