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article imageOp-Ed: Sydney air quality – Truly lousy, and dangerous, weeks later

By Paul Wallis     Dec 13, 2019 in Environment
Sydney - Sydney’s air quality crashed with the bushfires. It’s now still very bad, with incredible readings. I’ve lived in Sydney for nearly 40 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen it this bad.
A brief narrative – Walking up a low rise hill about 200m, I was thinking, “Isn’t there supposed to be something to breathe?” The heat was about 26C, humidity around 50-60%. A smell of bushfire ashes, instantly recognizable if you know it, was also obvious. Breathing, it seemed, was a luxury. So, a bit of research was required.
I found the Sydney real-time air quality index, and it was horrific. This website is pretty good, with a range of data for visibility, ozone, carbon monoxide, etc. The air quality conditions were described as “unhealthy” which is a bit of an understatement. Take a good look at this site for the quality readings, which are extremely variable.
Sydney city and the satellite cities are all in a river valley, which is basically a basin, on the south side. That’s a great configuration for the accumulation of particulates, notably ashes and the various toxic materials they contain. The heat in Sydney in summer is less murderous than many other parts of Australia, but it’s still pretty hot. Heat doesn’t help people with respiratory and heart problems, aggravating the issues of oxygenation for them. This sort of heat also dehydrates, not doing much for the lungs, which are already stressed.
Don’t even bother breathing this crap
Standard health warnings for the last month have been telling people to minimize exposure to this very bad air quality. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s barely breathable anyway. Stay indoors, and keep an eye on young kids and older people who may have issues.
• Stressed kids will get irritable, and any breathing problems will require immediate attention. Look out for obvious signs of stress in newborns, like colour changes, etc.
• People with existing respiratory conditions are strongly advised to keep their inhalers handy and avoid undue exposure.
• Older people should also avoid exposure, and avoid exertions or anything which may strain their breathing.
The NSW government Planning, Industry and Environment website has current information with updates at 4PM every day.
Quick fixes
• Drink water. This will help your lungs to process oxygen.
• Avoid exertion. You can do yourself some real damage even in this relatively mild heat.
• Keep cool. Overheating can do damage to your kidneys and pretty much everything else through dehydration.
• Keep an eye out for anyone having problems, like mobility, disorientation, or looking like they’re almost about to pass out.
• Dodge the alcohol in the heat, because it will use up your water.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Sydney air quality December 2019, air pollution from bushfires, respiratory issues and poor air quality, at risk people from Sydney air pollution
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