Under one’s breath – How Australia’s ‘fire’ season is affecting lives due to unhealthy air quality 

Last one-month Australia looked like an inferno to rest of the world and the loss cannot be summed only in numbers. Traumatic aftereffects of wildfire are still haunting many, and it is still far from over as authorities have reported that ‘fire season’ may continue till April. Those effected have lost homes, businesses but even those sitting away from the flames in the thick smoke blanket are breathing unhealthy air. A lot of cities in Australia have been covered by a thick haze of smoke from the wildfires for weeks.  

But, this is no occasional adversity, each year Australia experiences hot and dry summer weather that starts blazes in bush-land, wooded areas and national parks. This year is recorded as the worst because of wreck and damage that has caused to the environment and property and most importantly the air quality is measured 11 times the ‘hazardous’ level. This air is harming more people than bush fires as it has high level of tiny particles even more than what has been reported in Shanghai, Beijing, Delhi or Mumbai. 

The Guardian
has compiled figures from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to show total area burned in hectares per fire season and 2019 has been worst. Reportedly 8.4 million hectares of land is burned across Australia that is larger than Scotland. 
As per Berkeley Earth, Australia’s capital, Canberra, had the worst air quality early this year with readings of dangerous fine particulate air pollution reaching to over 200 micrograms per cubic meter. In Sydney, readings have been as high as 734 micrograms that is equal to smoking 37 cigarettes! 
Breathing smoke causes irritation to eyes, nose, throat and lungs but most serious results are seen in people with pre-existing respiratory problems. In aftermath, ultrafine air particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres – known as PM2.5 is the biggest concern as it can pose serious health risks. Hospitals and paramedics have treated thousands of people in Australia for breathing problems and this year the numbers are 10% higher. 

What can we do? 

Many studies have concluded that air pollution is often higher indoors at home and work. While both indoor and outdoor air pollutants need to be controlled and prevented, it is easier to monitor and take measure indoors. It is advised to check for air leaks indoor and use high efficiency particulate contamination air filters against PM1 and rated minimum as ePM1 60%. The focus should be put on filtering particles that are 1 μm (micrometre) or smaller in diameter – particles also known as PM1 (Particulate Matter 1) to achieve healthy indoor air quality. 

Things to consider before investing in air filtration solution –  

  1. Size of the area or room where air filter is going to be installed 
  2. Understand the ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ that includes energy bill, filter change, labour cost 
  3. Quality and type of air filter as this is what will determine the effectiveness and efficiency (there are different or combination of solutions available for various problems)
  4. Standards of certifications (most widely recognized are ISO and Ashrae)  

Still have questions? 

The unhealthy air is on the rise and indoor air quality is deteriorating. Camfil will not stay quiet. It is our mission to make clean air ‘a human right’. If you feel your community or institution needs our help in providing clean air indoors, please contact your nearest Camfil office and our experts are there to help you. 

Source for cover picture: Eden Hills Country Fire Service Australia Facebook page