• A man walks long the foreshore in Blackwattle bay as smoke haze from bushfires in New South Wales blankets the CBD in Sydney, Tuesday, December 10, 2019. (AAP)Source: AAP
With bush-fires continuing to devastate areas across New South Wales and air pollution reaching extreme levels, Australia's leading health and medical groups are calling on governments to act.
Douglas Smith

16 Dec 2019 - 4:26 PM  UPDATED 16 Dec 2019 - 4:26 PM

Twenty-two leading health and medical groups have called on all levels of government to respond to a ‘public health emergency’ as air pollution climb to unprecedented levels across NSW.

The joint statement released on Monday said the smoke blanketing Sydney and other parts of the state has produced air pollution up to 11 times the base ‘hazardous’ levels.

With more than 100 fires burning across the state, health and medical groups say governments’ “must prioritise action to help reduce the risks to people’s health.”

“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,” read the statement.

“This must include a multi-portfolio response involving Federal and State governments and the development of a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-being.”

Of the medical and environmental experts who signed the statement, Dr Kate Charlesworth from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians said "doctors are increasingly seeing" more health-related impacts of climate change on patients and communities.

“Climate-related health effects are having the most impact on our most vulnerable: babies, children, the elderly and people with pre-existing disease. There is no safe level of air pollution. To protect health, we need to shift rapidly away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner, healthier and safer forms of energy,” said Ms Charlesworth.   

Homes destroyed overnight

A massive fire engulfing Gospers Mountain, just north-west of Sydney, has destroyed at least two homes, with flames as high as 70-metres bearing down on residents who were told it was too late to leave.

Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner, Rob Rogers told ABC News that fire-fighters were concerned yesterday about the fire jumping and getting out-of-control, and attempted to use prevention methods which did not work.    

"Crews even back-burned to try and prevent that. Unfortunately, the back-burn got away as well," said Rogers. "Nothing is working for us."

Mr Rogers said conditions were only going to get worse "as we go through the week."

"On Thursday and Saturday, we're looking at quite dire conditions - so it's going to be a really tough week for fire-fighters and residents in those areas," he said. 

A spokesperson from the RFS told NITV News that access to the fire was now restricted for around 400 fire-fighters who are standing by on a Watch and Act alert level at Gospers Mountain until later tonight.  

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