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A review of approaches to monitoring smoke from vegetation fires for public health


Johnston, FH and Williamson, GJ and Bowman, DMJS, A review of approaches to monitoring smoke from vegetation fires for public health , Air Quality and Climate Change, 44, (2) pp. 17-21. ISSN 1836-5876 (2010) [Refereed Article]

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Monitoring the level of pollution generated by both planned and unplanned vegetation fires is a fundamental requirement for assessing human health impacts, informing public health actions, and ensuring that regulatory requirements are met. The issue is of growing importance because of the increasing use of &prescribed burning* 每 the planned setting of fires under mild weather conditions to reduce fuel loads and therefore lower fire intensities from unplanned vegetation fires. This practice often causes the pooling of smoke in airsheds and thus conflicts with air quality statutes. In this paper, we review biomass smoke monitoring practices in Australia and North America. In North America, air quality has enormous influence over planned burning and consequently there has been considerable investment and development in the monitoring of smoke emissions from fires. In Australia, the monitoring of particulate pollution has been focused on urban and industrial areas. Samplers used for this purpose may not be appropriate for measuring smoke from bushfires due to long averaging times and non-real-time data reporting. Drawing on North American approaches we suggest that Australian populations in fire prone areas would benefit from improved management of smoke pollution from both planned and unplanned fires by increased use of (a) simple local guidelines based on the visibility of landmarks, (b) portable and mobile samplers with real-time reporting of pollution levels via the internet, and (c) dissemination of smoke forecasts using predictive smoke dispersal modelling. Benefits of more temporally and spatially accurate data include (a) more appropriate tools and greater capacity to support public health responses to pollution episodes, (b) improved monitoring of planned burns, and (c) better validation of predictive dispersion models. Ultimately this will provide an appropriate knowledge-base for the development of prescribed burning policies, guidelines and practices for the overall benefit of public health.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:bushfires, smoke, PM, monitoring, planned burning
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Epidemiology
Research Field:Environmental epidemiology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Johnston, FH (Professor Fay Johnston)
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:65864
Year Published:2010
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2010-12-07
Last Modified:2011-05-02
Downloads:6 View Download Statistics

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