Journal article

Impact of Prescribed Fires on Downwind Communities

Health Forests Natural resources Australia

Prescribed fires are conducted each year across Australia for fuel management and/or ecological reasons. In some regions, during the period of intensive prescribed burning, large quantities of hazardous air contaminants may be emitted and may exceed urban air quality guidelines. The impact on community health will depend on what hazardous pollutants the population is exposed to, the levels of exposures and the potential for such exposures to cause adverse health effects among the community. The paper will discuss findings from a review of Australian and international literature regarding implications of exposure to bushfire smoke 'air toxics' on community health. Most studies have been on large fires, whether accidental or during forest clearing activities with little to no research on community health and air toxics exposures downwind of prescribed fires. The review has shown that the primary pollutant consistently exceeding air quality guidelines downwind of large bushfires was particulate matter, but it also highlighted that there is clearly a need to further investigate the effects of bushfire on public health.

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