Air quality system provides breath of fresh air

Smoke

Tasmania's air quality notification system has proved its worth over the past year helping Tasmanians at risk of harm from wood smoke to better protect their health.

Launched just over 12 months ago, the wood smoke | air quality | your health website has received over 6000 hits with over half of these in January and February at the height of the Tasmanian bushfires.

Director of Public Health Roscoe Taylor said the website had peaked at 600 and 300 hits per day during the January and more recent Molesworth bushfires, respectively.

"The air quality notification system lets susceptible individuals know when to take precautions to protect their health," Dr Taylor said.

"One example was the organisers of the Cadbury Marathon using the website to help runners decide whether to run or not with smoke lingering over Hobart following the Tasman Peninsula bushfires."

The system, a partnership between public health experts, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Asthma Foundation of Tasmania (AFT), combines real-time air quality monitoring, precautionary advice, and health and air quality information.

EPA Director Alex Schaap said air quality was monitored at 25 stations around Tasmania with real-time data published online.

"While Tasmania has some of the cleanest air in the world, all stations have recorded days with at least one hour of elevated small particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter at levels of 25 micrograms/cubic metre – the trigger for the air quality notification," Mr Schaap said.

On public health advice, the trigger level was set very low to help inform members of our community most sensitive to airborne particles.

"Launceston, Huonville and Geeveston recorded the smokiest conditions across the state, with each recording over 100 days when the air quality notification was triggered," Mr Schaap said.

"Last year we installed air monitoring stations at Campbell Town and New Norfolk and we plan to further refine our system to ensure we place monitoring stations where they will be of most use."

AFT CEO Cathy Beswick said the system had proved really useful in helping those living with asthma to take necessary precautions to protect their health.

"Our work with the Public and Environmental Health Service and the EPA is very important in helping people to manage their asthma and we are delighted to see people are using the service," Mrs Beswick said.

"All Tasmanians should be wary to limit their exposure to smoke, but this is especially important for people with heart and lung conditions, including asthma, as well as infants and people over 65 years of age.

"Smoke is a year-round issue and is generated from a wide range of sources, including wood heaters, incinerators, bushfires, back-burning, burn-offs and regeneration burns," Mrs Beswick said.

Air quality in Tasmania is regulated by the EPA and Local Government.

The Director of Public Health issues independent health advice to help protect and promote the health of Tasmanians.

Visit the air quality monitoring site at www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/peh/alerts/air

19 April 2013