Burning to reduce fuels: the benefits and risks of a public health protection strategy

Fay H Johnston
Med J Aust 2020; 213 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50751
Published online: 21 September 2020

We need to burn, but it is not a cure‐all and the side effects can be serious

Fire disasters are one of many serious and escalating environmental health problems that the world, and Australia in particular, is now facing.1 During the black summer of 2019–2020, population exposure to bushfire smoke was almost an order of magnitude greater than that documented for any of the fire seasons for at least the previous two decades, and it was estimated to be responsible for more than 400 premature deaths.2 The fires themselves, including firefighting‐related accidents and injuries, claimed a further 33 lives.3 Furthermore, the trauma experienced by communities affected by the fires, including serious risks to life, homes and livelihoods, will have ongoing psychological, physical health, social and economic impacts.4

  • Fay H Johnston

  • Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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