Transparency from news outlets and the Australian government about PM2​.​5

Transparency from news outlets and the Australian government about PM2​.​5

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Hannah Vanderzee started this petition to Channel 10 and

At the moment thousands of people across the country (Australia) are directly affected by the bushfires. Whether it be their town being threatened or having to cancel trips to bushfire prone zones. Indirectly, though, just about everyone is affected by the bushfires through the smoke. While this may seem like the 'better' option compared to being directly threatened by bushfire, it could be by far one of the worst ongoing, long-term threats to our health.

We have seen glimpses of interviews with health professionals on the news, stating that this is a national health crisis, yet we are not told in detail what that means.
PM2.5. That is airborne particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or less. That is roughly 30 times narrower than the width of the average human head hair (http://npi.gov.au/resource/particulate-matter-pm10-and-pm25). It comes from the exhaust pipe of the car in front of you, building demolition, disturbed dirt roads, coal extraction and burning, and most blatantly: bushfires. It is so fine that it permeates your lungs and can find its way into your bloodstream and to your vital organs. It can cause respiratory difficulties, permanent damage to your organs, cancers and other diseases, stroke, heart attack and death (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-%28outdoor%29-air-quality-and-health). It is so essential that you don’t breathe it in.

Yet, on days where I have never seen smoke so thick in my area in my entire life, I am forced to, even in the comfort of my own house. People are out cycling, running, walking their dogs, doing outdoor work as if to be none the wiser. Masks that filter them out don’t always fit the face and air purifiers are expensive. Canberra was faced with levels up to more than 1200 PM2.5 microns per cubic meter when it should never exceed 25 per day. That’s equivalent to smoking over 60 cigarettes a day. If you were to smoke them back to back, it would take 10 hours (Tim Smedley, Clearing the Air).

We know the impacts of smoking cigarettes. People have a choice to not smoke. Bushfire smoke and other PM2.5 particles are inescapable. People are denied basic information outside of warnings that state "there is smoke".
We are told what we should do when it’s near us. Stay indoors and don’t exercise in excess. Act on your asthma action plan. Call 000 if you’re wheezy. We are not told what it means to inhale though and why it is so bad if we do. We are not told about the long-term effects. No one is told to wear a mask when an AQI rating will tell you that you need to do just that. I’ve heard on the news that masks are useless in smoke. It is simply not true (unless you buy a surgical mask, in which case, it is). You can buy masks that filter out PM2.5. They aren’t expensive. People deserve to know that they should be wearing them when the smoke is bad enough.

How many people will still be suffering after the bushfire season is over? How many people will die at the hands of smoke and other particulate matter inhalation?
Countless studies have been done on the severe impact it has on human health. It kills more people a year than car crashes: around 1.2 million people per year from car crashes globally compared to around 4.2 million people per year from air pollution globally (https://www.who.int/gho/road_safety/mortality/traffic_deaths_number/en/); (https://www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/burden/en/). The WHO have recommendations (https://www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/burden/en/) but how are we meant to know about their existence if we've never heard of PM2.5?


Masks bought from the hardware store may not always be 100% effective. Air purifiers may be financially out of reach. The next best thing though is being informed in detail about the risks. You deserve to know that it can harm you. We are all at risk. Only the ABC has been yet to expose the seriousness of long-term effects like cancers, organ failure, stroke and death.

Yes, this may be scary and no, the government doesn't have control over smoke. They and our news outlets, the people we turn to for information, do have control about informing us though.

Sign the petition to call on news outlets to be more transparent about PM2.5 inhalation and call on the government to do the same and to talk about their action plans for mitigating and treating it.

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At 100 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!