In addition to destroying hundreds of homes, devastating animal habitats and claiming the lives of six people, the bushfires that have raged across New South Wales in recent weeks have also severely impacted the air quality in central Sydney, with pollutants officially reaching ‘hazardous’ levels – the most extreme classification – in several parts of the city by Monday evening.
Lingering smoke continues to choke the city today, with extended periods of hazardous air quality expected to persist as the summer months bring yet more catastrophic bushfire conditions. There are currently 119 bush and grass fires burning across the state, with 48 classified as ‘uncontained’.
The smoke particles currently blanketing the city can lead to multiple health issues, and NSW Health has advised Sydneysiders to take precautions, as well as regularly checking the NSW government air quality forecast.
Those with existing lung and heart conditions – such as asthma, emphysema or angina – are particularly at risk, and should not spend extended periods outside. However, symptoms such as sore eyes, and an irritated nose and throat can occur in anyone engaging in exerted physical activity in areas affected by hazardous air quality, so reconsider your plans if you’re hoping to spend time outdoors.
NSW Health has advised that the best way to reduce symptoms caused by exposure to bushfire smoke is to stay indoors with the doors and windows shut. Air conditioning can also help to filter particles from indoor air so crank up the AC if you're able. Smoke particles can linger indoors, so you should take the opportunity to air out your home during periods when the air quality has improved.
Anyone who experiences severe shortness of breath or other acute symptoms should call triple zero immediately. If minor symptoms do not settle after taking shelter, seek medical advice from your GP. Further health advice can be found on the NSW government website.