Smoke impacts on community health and social perceptions - identifying the human health responses to smoke exposure through determining population groups most likely to be vulnerable to impact, and establishing trigger levels for impact in terms of changes to ambient air quality. This project is also identifying the relationship between real and perceived levels of risk to human health through smoke exposure.
This research is being undertaken for the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI).
This Smoke: Impacts on Community Health & Social Perceptions (ICHSP) Project targets increasing the understanding of smoke impacts, from fire and planned burning activity, by Victorian land, fire, emergency and environmental protection agencies.
Specifically it will develop research identifying:
1. The human health responses to smoke exposure- through determining population groups most likely to be vulnerable to impact, and establishing trigger levels for impact in terms of changes to ambient air quality.
It is generally supposed that within general population specific groups, such as the children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions of the heart or respiratory system (such as asthma), may be more vulnerable to health impacts from smoke exposure. Developing evidence of both the accuracy of this supposition and the nature of any specific groups is critical to improving understanding and communication around this issue.
Further to this, developing evidence of a scale of impact for the “smoke dose” from bushfire smoke exposure, and the “human health response” is important to better defining the relationship between smoke and health. Also critical is the identification of the effects of varying smoke levels on those vulnerable population groups, and determining whether or not localised controlled burning activities impact on the respiratory health of vulnerable residents in a Victorian regional setting.
2. The relationship between real and perceived levels of risk to human health through smoke exposure by Victorian communities.
The project will focus on whether population vulnerability, access to information and knowledge, or other physiological, psychological or social factors, impact on perceptions of risk from smoke from planned burning, on individual and community responses.
3. The value, of potential mitigation and communication strategies directed at reducing human health impact from smoke exposure.
Finally the project will investigate and assess the value of potential exposure reduction strategies (for example, staying indoors), the role of mitigating interventions (including use of medications), and how these strategies are effectively communicated to the community.
The outputs for the project are expected to include items such as:
- a description of ambient air quality (PM2.5) in areas where planned burning is conducted;
- a description of baseline respiratory health, inflammation and coagulation in participants; and
- characterisation of the dose-response relationship between PM2.5, from smoke associated with prescribed burns, and health outcomes.
The project will run over three years to enable longer term assessment of health impacts. It will involve in kind support, expertise and guidance from the Department of Health, in kind technical assistance and resources from EPA Victoria, and collaboration with a wide range of other Government and tertiary education bodies.
This project also aligns with the requirements of the State Environment Protection Agency (Air Quality Management) that requires the EPA to work with other Government agencies, protection agencies, and fire authorities to develop measures to minimise, to the extent practicable without compromising the protection of human life and property and the health of native ecosystems, the impacts of planned burning.
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Publications from this Project
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