Sydney’s smoke haze a ‘public health emergency', doctors warn government

Doctors and health professionals are urging the prime minister and NSW premier to act in response to the "public health emergency" caused by bushfire smoke.

Protesters rally calling for action on the climate emergency in Sydney.

Protesters rally calling for action on the climate emergency in Sydney. Source: AAP

Medical groups are calling on the prime minister and NSW premier to take action to stem high levels of air pollution caused by bushfire smoke, calling the situation a public health emergency.

Twenty-two organisations including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine signed a joint statement calling on Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian to lead action on climate change to protect people's health.

Bushfire smoke has led to air pollution levels up to 11 times the "hazardous" level in parts of Sydney and NSW, the statement, released on Monday, said.

Air pollution is linked to outcomes including premature births and underweight babies, asthma, heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Climate change is worsening extreme weather events and elevated air pollution from bushfires will become more frequent, they said. 

"Both the Federal and State Government of NSW must prioritise action to help reduce the risks to people's health arising from hazardous air pollution from the bushfires that continue to burn relentlessly across the state," the statement read.

"We call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to demonstrate the leadership this public health emergency demands, and to implement measures to help alleviate the health and climate crisis."

The medical groups also called on political leaders to acknowledge the impacts of climate change and commit to action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"In addition to responding to this public health emergency, we call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Gladys Berejiklian to lead action on climate change to protect our health," they said.

They called for a national strategy on climate, health and wellbeing to ensure a co-ordinated approach to tackling "the worsening health impacts of climate change".


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Published 16 December 2019 at 6:08am, updated 16 December 2019 at 4:22pm