Last updated on 03/09/2020

Fire pits a real health risk to Brisbane residents

Since 1970, Brisbane neighbourhoods have enjoyed clean air but now residents with respiratory conditions are worried that smoke from backyard fires will take a toll on their health.

Smoke from wood fires is harmful to health and is associated with increased risk of breathing difficulty and hospitalisation for the one in nine people with asthma in addition to other vulnerable groups, which include people with other respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, along with pregnant people, the elderly, children and infants.

Asthma Australia is calling out Brisbane City Council for seeking community feedback on whether backyard firepits and braziers will be allowed again next winter via a popularity vote using Facebook emoji’s, saying social media will not properly weigh-up the impact on people’s health.

People who have disagreed with the fire pit trial due to serious health concerns are being bullied on social media, called whiners by others, which is trivialising life threating health conditions.

“Making policy by a social media poll has seen the risk of life-threatening asthma flare ups pitted against the perceived right to toast marshmallows in a suburban backyard,” Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said.

Brisbane resident Alan Kirk expressed his concerns for his family’s health who have been confined to their home, with all their windows and doors closed, since the trial started.

“Since the lifting on the ban on backyard fires my life has been hell,” he said.

“I am all for a bit of fun and can understand the enjoyment of a fire, but not when it is so detrimental to so many people’s health.

“Our house backs onto all of our nine neighbours backyards so the issue is extreme for us.

“If the smoke is causing harm, council is asking vulnerable people to ‘dob in’ or complain to their neighbours, which is ridiculous after Council already gave them the green light to have a fire.”

Alan’s wife Katrina, son and 14-year-old daughter all suffer from asthma and allergies – and their symptoms are worsened by smoke.

“Our daughter has had to stop all forms of sports, she had to miss school and it is only a matter of time before we land ourselves at an emergency ward,” he said.

“It has almost brought me to tears when I have had to watch my daughter on the sideline at her sports, missing school and not been able to play her trumpet. So many things she loved to do she now struggles with – and I know we are not alone.

“So, I must ask, how is this good for the people of Brisbane?”

Asthma Australia is urging Brisbane residents to rethink the benefits and costs of backyard fires including the impact smoke might have on their own health.

“We are yet to know the long-term health impact of ongoing smoke exposure on healthy people, such as onset of respiratory conditions, and that’s something we want people to be aware of,” Ms Goldman said.

“One in nine people, young and old, are affected by asthma which can be triggered and worsened by smoke and that there’s no safe level of exposure to it.

“Fires spread smoke across neighbourhoods, so it’s not just your family impacted by smoke.

“Even low levels of smoke can cost someone who lives nearby an asthma attack or a trip to hospital. We don’t know if someone down the street has a serious health condition.

“I urge Brisbane City Council to reinstate their ban on backyard fires. Purposely polluting the air in built up areas is not any body’s right, it’s a public health risk.”

Further information on the impact of biomass smoke from wood fires on health, are available below:

The Kirk family have submitted an official written complaint about the trial to the Brisbane City Council.