Picture: Rob Blakers,

Smoke from landscape fires has been found to contribute to 340,000 deaths worldwide each year.

Scientists from the University of Tasmania, the Menzies Research Institute as well as US and Canadian universities found smoke from forest, grass and agricultural fires affect the climate, air quality and human health.

Report co-author David Bowman says there are implications for forestry burns in Tasmania.

“We are exposing populations to risks and preventative measures have got to be taken.”

“There has got to be an understanding that people who complain about the smoke have a legitimate case, the medical science is on their side now,” he said.

The study found the toxic cocktails of chemicals in wood smoke is causing the most harm in very poor communities.

“Sub-saharan Africa, which is a savanna region, has a very lot of poor people doing a huge amount of burning of the savannas.”

“That is also reflected in the tropical rain forests, there is a huge amount of burning, particularly in south-east Asia where there are obviously a lot of high density cities,” he said.

The research is being presented today at an international climate change conference in Canada.

Last year a CSIRO study into air quality in the Huon Valley, south of Hobart, found woodheater smoke significantly outweighs emissions from forestry regeneration burns.


• Forestry to fire up 245 burns in autumn

21 Feb, 2012 08:07 AM

FORESTRY Tasmania plans to conduct 245 regeneration burns this autumn.

Fire manager Tony Blanks said minimising smoke nuisance in urban areas would continue to be a priority during the burning season.

Mr Blanks said there were 25 higher intensity burns planned for the North and North-East - fewer than last year.

More fires are planned in wetter forests in the Circular Head and Huon regions where unfavourable weather conditions meant planned burns could not go ahead in previous years.

Burning will start about mid-March and finish at the start of May.

Mr Blanks said Forestry Tasmania would continue to follow improved procedures implemented last year, including publicising its plans each morning and notifying residents if the fires might have contributed to air pollution.

He said it was important to provide as much information as possible to the community.

``We know the regeneration program causes some concern in some sections of the community, and frankly we wouldn’t burn if it wasn’t essential.’‘

Read the rest, Examiner here

Serious Health Risks Are Still Being Ignored

Paul O’Halloran MP
Greens Health Spokesperson

The Tasmanian Greens today said Forestry Tasmania was insulting the intelligence of Tasmanians and jeopardising their health, by persisting with forest management practices that do not even belong in the developing world.

Greens Health spokesperson Paul O’Halloran MP said Forestry’s glossy brochure in daily newspapers yesterday was an attempt to brainwash Tasmanians and greenwash the 245 forest fires which it plans to start in the autumn.

“These forest burns will be damaging to health, bad for the climate and bad for our clean and green image,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“Even more burns than usual will be conducted in north-west Tasmania, which is disastrous for those who are forced from their homes for long periods of time because they have asthmatic children.”

“It is bizarre that Forestry would deliberately inflict this serious increased health risk on the people of Tasmania, particularly those living in rural and regional areas.”

“New research led by Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, published this week, found forest, grass and agricultural fires had contributed to 339,000 deaths worldwide per year between 1997 and 2006.” [1]

“Toxic cocktails of chemicals and particularly small PM 2.5 particles are particularly dangerous and they are produced in abundance from this archaic practice.”

“The glossy propaganda piece from Forestry Tasmania Managing Director’s is typical of the misinformation coming from this debt-ridden rogue agency, an agency which fails to care for the health of ordinary Tasmanians.”

“How many more Tasmanians have to put up with the life threatening and health implications of a practice that never belonged in any era, let alone the 21st century?”

“This dinosaur GBE with its dinosaur practices must be consigned to the dustbin of history. “

“How is it that this GBE which makes tens of millions of dollar losses through mining our forests is able to find the money to fund outrageous brochures like those inserted in this week’s newspapers?”

“Their claim that Tasmania’s forests absorb and store three times more carbon each year than is emitted by FTs regeneration burns also requires scrutiny. Is Forestry including the loss of soil carbon as a consequence of their hot regeneration burns in these figures?”

“I will also be seeking to work with Asthma Tasmania regarding the impact of these against these atmospheric particulates. There must be a better way than just advising those with respiratory illness to merely activate their precautionary plans – presumably move out of home,” Mr O’Halloran said.

[1] Study by Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, published in Environmental Health Perspectives: Here