Doctors welcome bushfire smoke research

Government funding is being made available to research the health impact of bushfire smoke.
Government funding is being made available to research the health impact of bushfire smoke.

Government grants for research into the health impacts of long-term exposure to bushfire smoke have been welcomed by doctors.

The federal government has announced $5 million worth of grants to fund research into the physical and mental health impacts of smoke exposure.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said on Wednesday the lack of research into smoke exposure made public education challenging.

"We need to rapidly translate the research findings into everyday medical practice," Dr Bartone said.

Dr Bartone also encouraged more funding so research would be completed ahead of any future emergencies.

Australia's bushfire crisis has seen cities and towns along the east coast plagued by thick bushfire smoke despite not being impacted directly by fires.

Melbourne currently has some of the worst air quality out of any major city across the globe, with Canberra having been the worst major city several times since the New Year.

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Terry Slevin said the country may now need a new education campaign similar to the skin cancer preventative '"sun smart" campaign.

"We need to learn more about this new environment," Mr Slevin said.

He said just like Australians have learned about SPF rankings for sunscreen, they may need to learn more about the particulate matter rankings for air quality.

Dr Bartone said while the short-term health impacts of smoke exposure had been well researched, there was little on the long-term impacts.

He said GPs had been seeing people in bushfire-affected areas struggle with both the physical and mental health impacts of smoke exposure.

Mr Slevin said people would be anxious when something as simple as the safety of the air they were breathing was in doubt.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the research would also look into exposure reduction methods and help develop resilience strategies in the future.

It would also help develop resilience strategies and the response to future bushfire strategies.

"The current bushfire crisis that is impacting large parts of Australia has devastated individuals and communities," Mr Hunt said.

Australian Associated Press