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Exposure to bushfire smoke and asthma: an ecological study

Johnston, Fay H., Kavanagh, Anne M., Bowman, David M. J. S. and Scott, Randall K. (2002). Exposure to bushfire smoke and asthma: an ecological study. Medical Journal of Australia,176(11):535-538.

Document type: Journal Article
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Title Exposure to bushfire smoke and asthma: an ecological study
Author Johnston, Fay H.
Kavanagh, Anne M.
Bowman, David M. J. S.
Scott, Randall K.
Journal Name Medical Journal of Australia
Publication Date 2002
Volume Number 176
Issue Number 11
ISSN 0025-729X   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Start Page 535
End Page 538
Total Pages 4
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher Australasian Medical Publishing Company Pty. Ltd.
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract Objective: To examine the relationship between the mean daily concentration of respirable particles arising from bushfire smoke and hospital presentations for asthma.

Design and setting:
An ecological study conducted in Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia) from 1 April – 31 October 2000, a period characterised by minimal rainfall and almost continuous bushfire activity in the proximate bushland. The exposure variable was the mean atmospheric concentration of particles of 10 microns or less in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) per cubic metre per 24-hour period.

Outcome measure:
The daily number of presentations for asthma to the Emergency Department of Royal Darwin Hospital.

There was a significant increase in asthma presentations with each 10-µg/m3 increase in PM10 concentration, even after adjusting for weekly rates of influenza and for weekend or weekday (adjusted rate ratio, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.09–1.34; P < 0.001). The strongest effect was seen on days when the PM10 was above 40 µg/m3 (adjusted rate ratio, 2.39; 95% CI, 1.46–3.90), compared with days when PM10 levels were less than 10 µg/m3.

Airborne particulates from bushfires should be considered as injurious to human health as those from other sources. Thus, the control of smoke pollution from bushfires in urban areas presents an additional challenge for managers of fireprone landscapes.

Keywords air-pollution
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