08 November 2013

NSW Health is urging people to take caution in the face of worsening air quality today.
 
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) online air quality measurements show that there is an increase in particulate air pollution from the Illawarra area to Sydney and the Upper Hunter, with many areas experiencing poor air quality.

OEH have this morning upgraded the forecast air pollution levels for the Sydney and Illawarra regions from FAIR to POOR air quality.
 
Light N-NW winds have transported bushfire smoke into the basin overnight and this morning under strong inversion conditions. OEH has issued automated air pollution alerts for Sydney NW, Sydney SW and the Illawarra. Air quality in Sydney Central East continues to deteriorate and smoke impacts will continue for most of the day.
 
Dr Wayne Smith, Director Environmental Health Branch, NSW Health, warned that those with lung and heart disease should closely monitor their symptoms. 
 
“Bushfires can result in a large amount of smoke particles in the air, even great distances from the fires.” Dr Smith said.  
“Smoke levels are likely to be higher outdoors than indoors, so sensitive people to should limit the time they spend outside.”
 
Smoke particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation or runny nose and aggravate existing illnesses including bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.
 
NSW Health reminds people that children, older adults and people with heart and lung conditions are most susceptible to the effects of air pollution.
 
“The best way to avoid breathing in the smoke is to remain inside with the windows and doors closed, preferably in an air-conditioned building,” Dr Smith said. 
 
“Fine particles can also irritate the lungs of healthy adults, so it is best to avoid any prolonged outdoor exercise.”

The NSW Health Emergency Department monitoring system has shown a marked increase in emergency department attendances for asthma, particularly among the 5-64 year old age group.

“We urge asthma sufferers to follow their Asthma Action Plan and take their relieving medication where necessary. If symptoms get worse, asthma sufferers need to seek medical advice,” Dr Smith said.

Further information on maintaining health during bushfires can be found at
http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/emergency_preparedness/weather/Pages/Bushfire.aspx  
 
Further information on bushfire smoke and health can be found at
http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/bushfire-smoke.aspx  
 
For local air quality forecasts and hourly air quality updates, visit the Office of Environment and Heritage website: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/index.htm  
 
For more information about air pollution and health, visit the NSW Health website:
http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/default.aspx