Bushfires — How much is our health affected?

Dr Ross Walker
3 min readJan 16, 2020

The ongoing bushfire crisis in Australia has fuelled the debates about climate change. On both sides of the argument are people who firmly believe that humans are having a direct effect on the world’s climate, whereas there is a smaller group of people, albeit just as vocal, suggesting this is scaremongering nonsense.

I would like to present an alternative slant on this debate, presenting some scientific facts. There is unequivocal data demonstrating that, now, one in eight deaths around the world are directly linked to air-pollution. In China, this is one four deaths. The World Health Organisation suggests that 4.2 million premature deaths per year are directly linked to air pollution.

There have been a number of studies released over the past decade linking exposure to air pollution and all of our common diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and most recently a study showing increased risk for osteoporosis.

image source: bbc.com

Why does China have a greater risk? Clearly, because they have a greater population. The big issue here is overpopulation by humans, creating pollution. Thus, there is no doubt that human beings are having a profound and detrimental effect on the world’s environment and in my view, the on-going arguments as to whether there is or isn’t climate change should be put to bed and we should be dealing with the population crisis and the clearly disastrous effect on the environment.

I was recently in the Shanghai region of China and the atmosphere there every day looked & smelt like Sydney on a bad bushfire day. Recently, in Sydney at the height of the bushfires, it was estimated that our air quality was worse than places like New Delhi, Beijing and Shanghai.

As our current bushfire crisis appears unprecedented, it is difficult to say what the short and medium term effects of bushfire smoke exposure may be to our health. Speaking to my friends, colleagues and also my own experience, I have no doubt regarding the effects on our eyes, throat and in some cases breathing.

On a very bad day recently in Victoria where the bushfire smoke was very intense, there was a 50% increase in calls to the ambulance service for breathing difficulties. These figures are consistent with…

Dr Ross Walker

Dr Walker is an expert in the field of preventative cardiology and has published seven books. He gives lectures nationally and internationally.