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UPDATE: Smoke haze from burnoffs pushed Tasmania close to breaching air safety standards last week.

In one 24-hour period, emission levels from the forestry regeneration and fuel-reduction burns “were approaching the standard”, state environmental management director Warren Jones told the Sunday Tasmanian.

Elevated particle levels had been detected in Launceston and Hobart on several days during the week.

A Sunday Tasmanian investigation into the smoke haze has revealed:

Between 5000ha and 7000ha is earmarked for forestry regeneration burns this season. About 70,000ha of the state’s forest was razed by wildfire in the past summer.

The smoke contains a mix of carbon monoxide, tar, ash, ammonia and known carcinogens such as formaldehyde and benzene.

[From Sunday Tasmanian]



Photograph by Kevin Keirnan

A Tasmanian academic warns smoke generated from forest regeneration burns could pose a worse outcome for human health than pollution from car exhausts.

Fay Johnston, a respiratory health researcher with the Menzies Institute, has begun a four-year study on the health effects of wood and bushfire smoke.

The study will take in Tasmania, Western Australia as well as towns and cities in New South Wales.

Dr Johnston says smoke pollution has a detrimental effect for many people.

“In the limited amount of studies that have been done so far that have directly compared smoke from fires with the same level of particulates and smoke from car exhaust, or industry have all tended to show that the effects from the wood smoke are actually worse for lung conditions than a similar amount from, say, car exhausts,” she said.

The Asthma Foundation of Tasmania has refused to criticise the smoky burn-offs of the past week, saying it is not qualified nor the appropriate body to say whether they should or should not occur.

“We are not denying smoke can be harmful but we are not in the business of saying regeneration burning should or shouldn’t occur,” foundation chief executive officer Cathy Beswick said.

“Some people say we are not looking after the best interests of people with asthma, but we can’t become a lobby group.

“We get funding from a variety of sources and if we start talking about burn-offs without looking at the science, that could affect the funding for programs we do in the community.”

Ms Beswick said her organisation did not receive funding from the forestry industry.

[From Sunday Tasmanian]

Mercury photograph

Forestry Tasmania’s controversial annual autumn burn-off started yesterday prompting the Asthma Foundation to warn people with respiratory problems to stay inside away from the smoke.

Curiously, the burns started on the same day Premier Paul Lennon announced international consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff would be engaged to audit the Government’s greenhouse emissions.

The first burn of the season was near Railton, in the state’s North-West.

A further six burns are planned for the Florentine Valley in the state’s south over the weekend.

Burnoff details can be found here.

Forestry Tasmania’s Fire Management branch manager Tony Blanks said the burns were expected to run throughout the autumn.

Welcome to clean, green Tasmania.