A new study by the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research has estimated the health impacts and costs of biomass smoke in Tasmania.
The research, led by PhD student Nicolas Borchers-Arriagada, found biomass smoke was linked to an estimated 69 deaths, 86 hospital admissions and 15 asthma emergency department visits each year.
More than 74 per cent of these cases were attributed to wood heater smoke.
It found the average yearly health costs were $293 million for wood heater smoke which translated to $4232 per wood heater.
Mr Borchers-Arriagada said that by using a variety of publicly available data sourced from 2015-2019, it was possible to estimate the negative health impacts of exposure to biomass smoke.
“By using population, health and air quality data, we’ve been able to obtain an estimate of the health impacts of biomass smoke exposure, and the associated health costs, which allows us to support decision-making processes and make positive changes in the future”, Mr Borchers-Arriagada said.
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“Biomass smoke pollution is a growing public health issue, but the impacts can be reduced through improved and innovative fire management and encouraging the use of more modern and efficient heating solutions over wood heating devices that can be highly polluting, especially when not operated optimally.”
Asthma Australia chief executive Michele Goldman said the research would improve the understanding of the health impacts of smoke exposure.
“People with asthma around Australia tell us smoke from wood heaters is a major trigger for their symptoms during the colder months,” Ms Goldman said.
“This research shows just how serious the impact of smoke exposure is, and it should compel governments to introduce measures that reduce the harm from wood fire heaters.”
Menzies Institute director Alison Venn, said that research into the health impacts of biomass smoke exposure was a vital step towards improving the lives of Tasmanians.
“By providing this insight, our research presents us with the opportunity to make positive changes now for a healthier Tasmania in the future,” Professor Venn said.