The question of whether health can be affected by climate change or not has been a question asked by many Australians before the last summer. The bush fires of the summer, however, made it clear to the whole nation how significantly health can be threatened by climate change. It was also made them clear how their health system and authorities were not ready and prepared in the case of health crisis by fire, smoke, and heat. What is sadder is that the condition of the health system hasn’t much changed since the last summer.
All Australian states and territories experienced burning of bush fires this summer while the fires largely devastated parts of New South Wales and Victoria. The magnitude that the bush fires caused the human life, homes, forest and biodiversity loss is beyond imagination as over 15 million acres of land were burned and heartbreakingly over a billion animals were also killed in the fire.
Over 10 million Australians have been exposed to the smoke from Canberra, Victoria, and NSW. Such high-intensity exposure to smoke has never been experienced by any nation in the world.
Considering the fires’ unprecedented nature, the certainty of health impacts cannot be determined. However, one thing is certain that sore eyes and throats have already been caused to those who were exposed to the smoke. Some have even reported to have been coughing and felt experienced breathlessness.
The risk of the vulnerable populations, especially older people and patients suffering from lung and heart diseases, to get seriously affected by being exposed to smoke is much higher.
It was suggested to pregnant ladies to be exposed to smoke as least as possible and it is very likely that the toxic air will affect the young children in both short and long terms.
It is very likely that affected people will serve as a reflection for the policymakers to understand these risks in a better way in the coming years. It is, however, much understood at this point that heat waves and the smoke from the bush fire caused a significant number of deaths this summer.