Asthma Australia welcomes the findings and recommendations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report, in particular those related to air quality, released today (Friday 30 October 2020).

In its Report, the Royal Commission has recognised the need for both nationally consistent air quality information and improved community education, as have earlier inquiries in New South Wales (NSW).

One in nine people in Australia are affected by asthma which makes them particularly vulnerable to breathing difficulties triggered by toxins in bushfire smoke, for which there is no safe level of exposure.

Throughout the peak of the 2019-2020 bushfire season, Asthma Australia surveyed more than 12,000 Australians and developed 10 recommendations based on its findings – which included nationally consistent air quality information, monitoring and an AirSmart public education campaign.

“People felt scared, anxious and trapped by the pervasive smoke,” Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said.

“Of those surveyed, 94 per cent of people with asthma reported suffering from symptoms, levels of anxiety and depression were exacerbated, and one in four people with asthma reported financial stress.

“The most critical finding was that current public health measures did not protect people. We can and must do better.”

AirSmart will aim to help at-risk individuals – including people with asthma, other respiratory conditions, heart disease, pregnant people and children – and the general community to minimise the impact of unhealthy air, by understanding its dangers and what steps to take to protect themselves and their families.

Asthma Australia said Australian governments, both state and federal, have been talking about releasing nationally consistent air quality standards for many months and now it is time for them to act.

“We urgently need funding for air quality education so people with asthma and the many others at higher risk of health harms from smoke know how to protect themselves when the smoke returns – which, unfortunately, we know it will,” Ms Goldman said.

The Royal Commission has recommended greater community education and guidance around air quality information, health advice and interventions.

“The AirSmart campaign we have been calling for would deliver on that recommendation, but we need governments to step up and fund it.”

For more information on AirSmart and Asthma Australia’s recommendations, please visit asthma.org.au/what-we-do/advocacy/smoke-survey-results.