Sydney’s air quality is so bad that breathing outside for one day is like smoking 32 cigarettes, scientist warns
- Respiratory diseases scientist Dr Brian Oliver has analysed air pollutant levels
- The normal reading sits between five and eight but it reached 641 on Thursday
- He said the toxic particles could harm unborn babies and provoke heart attacks
Breathing hazardous soot-filled smoke from bushfires for one day is as bad for you as smoking 32 cigarettes, an expert has warned.
Smoke particle pollution readings are normally between about five and eight – but on Thursday they reached 641 in Sydney as smoke blew over the city.
Respiratory diseases scientist Professor Brian Oliver said spending a day breathing this low quality air is like being a heavy smoker.
Smoke particle pollution readings are normally between about five and eight – but on Thursday they reached 641 in Sydney as smoke blew over the city (pictured)
‘There are lots of gaseous components in the soot, and the very small particles we inhale can reach the air sacs in our lungs and penetrate into our organs,’ Dr Oliver told News.com.au.
‘The general response is inflammation, but if you have a pre-existing lung or cardiovascular condition, the fire produces something which causes inflammation which tips you over the edge.’
Dr Oliver warned that the hazardous chemicals in the smoke could be detrimental to the babies of pregnant women or cause heart attacks in people with underlying cardiac conditions.
He said mothers would have to be exposed for prolonged periods for their unborn babies to be affected.
Dr Oliver, a researcher at the University of Technology, said Australia’s air quality is usually incredibly clean.
The soot particles are currently undergoing chemical analysis but he believes they would carry substances that are associated with the development of cancer.
People with health conditions are advised to stay inside and wear good quality face masks for protection.
The warning comes as more than 55 fires are burning in NSW with total fire bans in several regions including the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
Smoke blew into Sydney’s inner city from bushfires blazing in the Gosper mountains in the Hawkesbury region
Meanwhile, Victoria has a total fire ban in place across the state and has declared Code Red conditions.
On Thursday, officials warned the conditions are as bad as Black Saturday when 173 people were burned to death in 2009.
A total fire ban has been issued statewide, but the worst conditions are in the state’s north.
Code Red signals the worst possible bushfire conditions and the safest place to be is away from high-risk fire areas within those districts, the CFA advised.
‘Our community members should be prepared for fire, and know where to get information to make good decisions about your safety,’ Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Wednesday.
‘Given fires could start and move quickly, you won’t always receive a warning or be told what to do if a fire starts.’
‘Homes are not built to withstand the types of fires we may see on a Code Red day and you don’t want to be caught travelling through areas on fire at the last minute if you wait and see,’ CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said.
Dr Oliver said while a normal reading sits between five and eight, a measurement taken from on Thursday indicated the pollutant had skyrocketed to 641, which is the equivalent of 32 cigarettes in a day