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A rapid assessment of the impact of hazard reduction burning around Sydney, May 2016

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Hazard reduction burning reduces the risks associated with bushfires,1 but produces fine particulate matter air pollution (particles of less than 2.5 μm diameter, PM2.5), which has recognised effects on health.2 In May 2016, hazard reduction burns around Sydney caused smoky conditions with high PM2.5 concentrations on several days. We describe a rapid assessment of the impact of smoke-related PM2.5 on all-cause mortality, and on hospitalisations for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions in the Sydney Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA) during May 2016.

Detailed methods are provided in the Appendix at mja.com.au. Briefly, air pollution impact assessment allows quantification of the local effects of a pollutant. It integrates scientific evidence of the pathological response to air pollution with local information about exposure and incidence of disease. We analysed public air pollution data from the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), population and mortality data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and hospitalisation data from the NSW Ministry of Health.

Smoky days were identified in OEH monitor data and verified by satellite…