Air quality warnings issued as hazard reduction burns blanket Sydney in smoke

Smoky skies in Sydney this morning, as seen from Pyrmont. Photo: It's Always DNS (@developerjack)/Twitter.

By STAFF WRITERS

NSW Health has advised Sydneysiders to avoid strenuous outside activity, people with heart and lung conditions to stay indoors where possible, and asthma sufferers to keep medication close at hand, as Sydney continues to experience smoke haze from hazard reduction burns. 

The Sydney metropolitan area and some regional areas of NSW are currently subject to smoke haze from the fires in bushland in Sydney’s northwest, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra region.

The blanket of smoke is so bad that parts of Sydney this morning recorded air pollution levels worse than the megacities of Beijing and Delhi, according to Weatherzone.

While the smoke has lifted somewhat this afternoon, it is expected to remain a problem on and off in Sydney over the coming days, particularly in the mornings. 

NSW Health’s Executive Director of Health Protection, Dr Richard Broome, said the smoke could have serious health impacts, especially for people with preexisting medical conditions.

“Smoke particles irritate the eyes and airways. For most people, this causes temporary symptoms like cough and sore throat. However, smoke particles can worsen heart and lung conditions like angina, asthma and emphysema, potentially causing serious illness,” Dr Broome said in a media statement. 

“Smoke from hazard reduction burns can be patchy and conditions often change rapidly. Over the coming days, the smoke is expected to be worse in the mornings, so people are advised to limit outdoor activity until it clears in the afternoon,” he said. 

“It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the NSW air quality website for real-time information about air pollution levels and for advice on what action you should take.”

Dr Richard Broome, gives smoke health advice on Tuesday, 27 April, 2021. Video: NSW Health/Vimeo.

NSW Health has also issued a number of general tips to decrease one’s risk from smoke. 

The tips include: follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and your asthma management plan if you have one; monitor air quality on the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website; avoid vigorous outdoor activity such as running; spend more time indoors; and avoid indoor sources of air pollution such as cigarettes, incense and candles. 

NSW Health said that in smoky conditions, air quality was generally best in air-conditioned premises such as cinemas, libraries and shopping centres.

More information can be found on the NSW Health website at www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/bushfire-smoke.aspx.