Extreme air pollution is a growing threat. (Not only) in Australia (STUDY)

Luc Williams

The latest study conducted by scientists from NewCurtinUniversity showed that over the last 20 years Australian In metropolitan areas, there were 1,454 preventable deaths (that’s one person every five days) caused by fine PM2.5 particles suspended in the air resulting from forest fires, dust storms or industrial accidents.

As the authors of the publication calculated, almost one third of these deaths could be prevented if pollution-related events were reduced by just 5%.

Extreme climate change

“This discovery highlights the urgent need to develop effective air quality management strategies, especially in the face of the increasing occurrence of extreme events caused by climate change,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Lucas Hertzog.

Using air quality data from 2001 to 2020 and a range of satellite land use data, his team’s scientists modeled exposure to extreme levels of PM2.5 particulate matter pollution on a daily basis. They then compared it with information about the daily number of deaths among Australian residents of large cities.

They found that there were almost 1,500 deaths over the entire study period that could be attributed to exceptionally high PM2.5 levels because, according to the models, they time-matched periods of extreme pollution.

Dying despite low PM2.5 levels

“Despite the fact that in general the level of PM2.5 was quite low in the period under study (compared to global averages), there are also days in Australian cities with extreme levels of pollution, when the concentration of particulate matter in the air exceeds WHO standards,” explains Dr. Hertzog.

For example, in Sydney and Melbourne, which reported the highest number of deaths related to pollution from extreme events, there were 541 and 438 deaths respectively. They were followed by Brisbane and Perth with 171 and 132 deaths, and then several other cities with significantly fewer days above WHO standards.

Dr. Hertzog says his team’s findings show just how pressing this issue is. Extreme events causing exceptionally high air pollution can seriously affect the health of people living in urban areas, and this fact is especially important now because ongoing climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of such phenomena.

What are the risks?

“Diseases related to particulate air pollution include asthma and COPDand disorderscardiovascular – reminds the scientist. “The conclusions from our study can help protect human health by contributing to the development of regulations and the implementation of actions to reduce the effects of extreme events and associated air pollution.”

He said responding to forest fires and dust storms is an increasing challenge, and authorities play a key role. They should make more rational decisions about land management, regulate energy policy and control regulations regarding wood stoves.

“Additional strategies to reduce emissions from industrial accidents and combat smog caused by road transport could increase our control over sources of air pollution and improve society’s well-being. Improving public health warning systems and increasing people’s awareness of when and how to avoid exposure to pollution could also help reduce mortality,” the researcher adds. (PAP)

Katarzyna Czechowicz


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.