Photo by Pascal Meier on Unsplash

Still a hazy topic, the effect of bushfire smoke on our health hasn’t been totally uncovered. Although, most of us would instinctively avoid inhaling bushfire smoke, getting to know the long-term and ongoing effects of it will aid firefighters and bushfire-prone communities alike.

Getting to the bottom of it

A new study being undertaken at the Centenary Institute and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is focussing on this very issue. The study, funded by the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Bushfire Impact Research grants program will seek to better understand the physiological impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure, to improve health outcomes for Australians.

Professor Phil Hansbro, Deputy Director at the Centenary Institute as well as Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation was the successful recipient of the grant and will be leading a team of specialist respiratory disease researchers and clinicians on the project.

Knowledge gap

In a recent media release, Professor Hansbro highlights the knowledge gap between when short term effects end or are remedied and the unknown area of long-term effects from prolonged smoke inhalation. During the course of this study, using real human tissue, Professor Hansbro and his team of experts hope to uncover the answers that will be able to fill this knowledge gap. Hansbro says “Ideally from our study, we’ll be able to help define safe levels of bushfire smoke exposure across all of these population groups”.

The next task is then to find and implement new prevention strategies and treatment measures. One of these strategies will include the appraisal of anti-inflammatory drugs already in pre-clinical development that can be taken to help mitigate the effects of excessive bushfire smoke inhalation.

Health first

With climate change continuing to propel forward, unveiling itself in the form of extreme natural events like the recent bushfires and now COVID, seeking more information around preventative measures that can help communities in a very practical and meaningful way is paramount to our future. How we react to these events could end up meaning the difference between life and death and sadly in the case of bushfires and COVID, it really does. More studies such as this need to be undertaken for the most basic and yet most important of reasons. Human survival.