Perth Haze: Asthma WA chief says new air pollution early warning system will save lives

Smoke haze, as seen from the hills in Kalamunda. Picture: David Baylis.
Smoke haze, as seen from the hills in Kalamunda. Picture: David Baylis.

WITH the smoke haze from prescribed burning creating potentially deadly conditions for asthmatics, a new warning system is about to be launched that will alert people of impending air pollution events.

Asthma WA chief executive Ian Craig said the early warning system would save lives.

“We’ve been working for nearly 12 months with the Bureau of Meteorology, Parks and Wildlife, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, WA Health and the Department for Environment to develop this Australian-first alert system,” he said.

“We’re aiming to launch the system in June which will give people 12 to 24 hours notice of an environmental event such as smoke haze.

“We want to let people know tomorrow might be a bad day so they can implement precautionary measures such as closing their windows and doors.

“I’m sure we’ll get it wrong at times, but the times we get it right we just might save a life.”

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Mr Craig said there were plans to further develop the alert system to include an SMS warning.

“In WA it is estimated there are 300,000 people with asthma,” he said.

“But we think this is the tip of the iceberg.

“During Melbourne’s thunderstorm asthma cluster in 2016, 9000 people presented to the emergency department and 40 per cent were undiagnosed asthmatics.

“Asthma is the leading cause of school work absenteeism here in WA and one Australian a day dies from asthma.”

Mr Craig said this time of year was particularly difficult for asthmatics.

“When there is tough conditions such as over the past few weeks we always get extra calls including from parents who are having to think about whether they send their child to school or to play sport,” he said.

“Add in the fact the cold and flu season is coming in, the easterlies are still blowing bringing dust and pollen off the land, you have prescribed burns, residents burning off and the nights are getting colder so people are using their wood-fired heaters.

“It all conspires for a miserable time of year for people with any respiratory illness.”

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