For all emergency warnings, including information on bushfires and smoke, visit the TasALERT website.
- Tasmania has some of the cleanest air in the world.
- During bushfires, and in winter in some areas, it can get very smoky outside.
- Smoke reduces the quality of the air you breathe, and it also affects your health.
Bushfire smoke and your health
Smoke from bushfires can harm your health by reducing the quality of the air you breathe.
You are at higher risk of health harms from breathing smoky air if you:
- have asthma or lung problems of any kind
- have other chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes or a previous stroke
- are older (especially over 65 years)
- have a baby or child (especially under five years)
- are pregnant.
What to do if you can see or smell smoke
1. Make sure you are safe from any immediate fire danger
2. Decide if you are at higher risk
- The actions you take will depend on your age or your overall health.
- If you are at higher risk, smoke can make your existing health conditions worse.
- This might mean you need urgent medical care.
- Air pollution is also one of many factors that can influence the growth and development of babies and children. Minimising how much smoke you breathe during pregnancy and in early childhood is a sensible precaution.
- If you are at higher risk, it is important to manage your health and reduce the smoke you breathe.
- If you are at lower risk, it is unlikely you will be at risk of serious health harms from breathing smoky air. Smoke is irritating and you may get symptoms such as burning eyes, a sore throat, runny nose or a cough.
- These should clear up quickly once the smoke goes.
3. Manage your health
- If it’s smoky, and you have a health condition such as asthma, you should actively manage your symptoms.
- Follow your asthma action plan, or your plan for managing flare-ups of other health conditions.
- If you don’t have an action plan, see your GP.
- If your symptoms worsen, call 000, go to your nearest hospital or go to your nearest GP.
4. Reduce the smoke you breathe
These simple steps can help reduce how much smoke you breathe.
- Stay indoors with your windows and doors closed. Avoid physical activity outdoors.
- If there is a break in smoky conditions, open the windows and air out your home.
- If you use an air-conditioner, set it to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’.
- If a lot of smoke from outside gets in or your home gets too hot, consider visiting a friend’s place, or a nearby library, shopping centre or sports centre if they have air-conditioning or are out of the smoky area.
- Consider using a portable air cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air or HEPA filter, available from home electrical stores.
- These should be set up in a well-sealed room the right size for the filter.
- Be cautious using facemasks.
- Simple paper or cloth face masks do not provide protection from bushfire smoke.
- Specialised ‘P2’ masks are available from most hardware stores.
- They will filter smoke particles. They require an air-tight seal between the mask and your face to be effective.
- This is difficult to achieve for adults and impossible for children due to their smaller faces.
5. Keep track of smoke
- Identifying where there is less smoke can help you reduce the smoke you breathe.
- Air quality is not measured everywhere in Tasmania.
- Smoke can vary from place to place and change quickly.
- Sometimes the air quality displayed could be different to the conditions you are experiencing.
- At all times, keeping safe from immediate fire danger is your highest priority.
Tracking air quality
- Smoke is made up of hundreds of different gases and small particles (known as particulate matter or ‘PM’).
- PM2.5 is the name given to the very small particles which can cause health problems.
- These are less than 2.5 micrometres in size, about 1/25th the width of a human hair.
- The amount of PM2.5 in the air is the best indicator of how much smoke is in the air.
- You can find out more about these particles at the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website.
- The EPA monitors these particles in many places across Tasmania. This information is shown in the map below and is updated every 10 minutes.
- The EPA also provide an alternative accessible version of EPA Tasmania PM2.5 data, in micrograms per cubic metre. This listing is alphabetical by station and includes date, time, current PM2.5, Hour-average and category.
- To see your local air quality, find your nearest location on the map below. Match the colour of this location to the table at the bottom of this page.
- You can also download the free AirRater smartphone app. AirRater provides air quality information from the EPA network and estimates air quality in places without an air monitoring station.
- For more information and to download the app, visit the AirRater website.
Air quality map
Smoke concentrations can vary from place to place and change quickly. Sometimes the air quality displayed for your nearest EPA monitor or shared via the AirRater app could be different to the conditions you are experiencing. The table below is a guide to the expected conditions at different concentrations of PM2.5 (rolling hourly average).
How to read the map
What the conditions are like
What this means
Beautiful. In many parts of Tasmania background PM2.5 is less than 5 and hard to beat.
Enjoy the outdoors.
|Generally good, it might appear a little hazy.
|This could indicate that air quality is beginning to get worse. Keep an eye on conditions. If the smoke has been much worse and is now improving, this is a good time to open and air your house.
Generally, you are able to see or smell smoke in the air when PM2.5 is over 25.
The smoky air could worsen the health of people at higher risk from smoke. People at higher risk from smoke should consider taking action. For more information about what you can do, see the Bushfire smoke and your health fact sheet
Visibility will be poor, and conditions may be unpleasant for some people.
The smoky air is likely to worsen the health of people at higher risk from smoke. People at higher risk from smoke should take action to manage any health conditions and reduce the amount of smoke they breathe. For more information about what you can do, see the Bushfire smoke and your health fact sheet
It will likely be very smoky and unpleasant for everyone.
The smoky air is very likely to worsen the health of people at higher risk from smoke. People at higher risk from smoke need to take action to manage any health conditions and reduce the amount of smoke they breathe. People not in higher risk groups should consider taking action to minimise their smoke exposure if practical. For more information about what you can do, see the Bushfire smoke and your health fact sheet
It will be very smoky and unpleasant for everyone.
|This represents severe air pollution. Everyone should take action to manage any health conditions and reduce the amount of smoke they breathe. For more information about what you can do, see the Bushfire smoke and your health fact sheet
In general, if PM2.5 levels are poor or very poor and have been for some time, it is more important to take action. Poor air quality for several days has a greater health impact than a brief episode lasting a few hours. The higher the PM2.5 the more likely this is to happen.