Woodfires - winter air pollutant and health threat - Institute for Respiratory Health

Woodfires – winter air pollutant and health threat

Thursday, April 07, 2022 | News

Today is World Health Day. This year’s theme is “Our Planet, Our Health’ and focuses on the health impacts of air pollution and the global cimate crisis.

Air pollution is bad for everyone and breathing it throughout our lives poses a threat to us all. It increases lung cancer and asthma with more than 5,000 Australians dying a year by breathing dirty air.

The Institute for Respiratory Health states that urgent action needs to be taken to keep Western Australians and the planet healthy and is calling on the government to put this as a priority this Federal Election.

“Air pollution in Australia costs Australians $16 billion annually. Australia overall does well with air quality in comparison to some countries like India and Egypt,” said Associate Professor Yuben Moodley.

“But bushfires, winter woodfires, road traffic and industry do contribute to higher levels of air pollution. And we have some of the worst postcodes in the country for air pollution including Cockburn and Quinn Rocks.

“There’s nothing nicer than a cosy woodfire in the winter but constant exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) can put us at risk. Chronic exposure can lead to lung disease and certain cancers.

“We can clean up the air significantly and minimise the health risks by reducing the amount of smoke from a wood heater, or stop running them altogether in the winter.”

Associate Professor Moodley advises:

  • Burn only dry, seasoned, untreated wood.
  • Wait for the fire to establish before adding extra fuel.
  • Avoid overloading your heater.
  • Use small or medium pieces of wood.
  • If buying a new heater, make sure it complies with the latest Australian standards.
  • There are friendlier options that will protect our planet and our breathing like improving the thermal efficiency of your home so that you can reduce the need for heating.

“I’d like to see an improved state-wide air pollution alerts system that tells the general public when air pollution is due to be high it should form part of the daily weather forecast,” said Associate Professor Moodley.

“There are other simple things we can all do to help improve air quality so that we can all breathe easy, protect our lungs and wellbeing.

“You can walk or cycle to work at least one day a week. Choose public transport. Move to vehicles that produce less air pollution and stop smoking as not only is tobacco a killer it is also a polluter.”

World Health Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948.