Air quality in hazy conditions

Smoky and dusty skies are drifting in and out of the Hawkesbury with low quality air warnings across Greater Sydney as severe bushfires continue in New South Wales.

NSW Health is reminding people with heart and respiratory conditions, angina and asthma to stay inside, carry your medication with you, and avoid exercise on poor air quality days – even if it means changing outdoor sport routines to protect your health.

The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Councillor Barry Calvert is concerned about people protecting their health during these conditions.

“It’s best to have a plan for what you will do when the air quality deteriorates,” Mayor Calvert said.

“Everyone can be affected by air pollution when exposed over prolonged periods of time, such as mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat, although some groups are more susceptible than others.

“Keep your windows closed. Even domestic animals will fare better if they can be kept indoors.

“Smoke and dust contain fine particles that can cause breathing problems for vulnerable groups such as those with asthma, emphysema and angina,” he said.

“For asthmatics, please go over your asthma plan. If you are a parent, check it with your child and discuss asthma, ‘out and about’ scenarios, role play; especially about asking for help.

“Shy children can carry an asthma communication card to have in their pocket,” Mayor Calvert said.

“Contact your school to remind them of their asthma condition and to follow the asthma plan.

“Just don’t be complacent, especially with teenagers, who are sometimes expected to be old enough to remember for themselves. Asthma can quickly flare up and become life threatening.

“The best way to reduce exposure to smoke is to stay indoors with the doors and windows closed, and air conditioning can also help to filter particles that are indoors,” the Mayor said.

“Don’t dismiss the warning signs of breathlessness, wheezing and tightness of chest because they can escalate very quickly. If you’re feeling unwell, don’t delay, seek medical assistance.”

Hawkesbury City Council also has two Libraries, one at Windsor and another in Richmond, that offer community members an indoor, air conditioned place to go during opening hours. Visit www.hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au/library for details or call 4560 4460.

Extreme weather conditions such as smoke from bushfires correlates with an increase in people presenting at hospitals for asthma attacks and severe respiratory problems.

Particle pollution

Particle pollution can occur due to particles released directly from various sources or particles formed by chemical reactions in the air involving precursor gases. Particle levels above national standards are often associated with dust storms and vegetation fires (e.g. hazard reduction burns, bushfires and wildfires).

NSW Health has developed a system of air quality alerts that are based on the daily air quality monitoring reports issued by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

When an air quality alert has been issued for Sydney, the Bureau of Meteorology assists in alerting the community.

How these levels relate to the Air Quality Index (AQI):

  • Poor: AQI > 100
  • Hazardous: AQI > 200
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