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Smoke exposure from forest fires and health effects – Australia

Jun 03, 2014 |

Dr. Sarah Henderson

Smoke from forest fires can cause some of the most extreme air pollution that many populations will ever experience. Short term exposures have been associated with a with a range of health outcomes, including respiratory diseases, reduced birth weight and premature mortality. Forest fires often burn in sparsely populated areas where air quality is not routinely measured, so the BC Centre for Disease Control developed a statistical model that uses global satellite data to make daily provincial smoke maps. The results are used for real-time surveillance of smoke exposure, and for epidemiologic research on health effects.

Dr. Sarah Henderson was awarded a joint visiting scholarship by the University of Tasmania and the Menzies Research Institute to test whether the smoke model could be applied in Australia. Successful transfer of the methods could support further international research by facilitating smoke studies in places without the resources necessary to develop exposure models from scratch. Dr. Henderson spent the month of May in Hobart, Tasmania working on the model transfer and planning for the fourteen studies that comprise a multi-year forest fire smoke collaboration between BC and the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

Source: SPPH Summer activities series