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Keywords:

  • vegetation fires;
  • bushfire smoke;
  • hospital admissions;
  • particulate air pollution;
  • respiratory disease;
  • cardiovascular disease

Abstract

Objective : We examined the association between validated bushfire smoke pollution events and hospital admissions in three eastern Australian cities from 1994 to 2007.

Methods : Smoke events were defined as days on which bushfire smoke caused the 24-hour citywide average concentration of airborne particles to exceed the 99th percentile of the daily distribution for the study period. We used a time-stratified case-crossover design to assess the association between smoke events and hospital admissions. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions on event days compared with non-event days. Models were adjusted for daily meteorology, influenza epidemics and holidays.

Results : Smoke events occurred on 58 days in Sydney (population: 3,862,000), 33 days in Wollongong (population: 406,000) and 50 days in Newcastle (population: 278,000). In Sydney, events were associated with a 6% (ORequals;1.06, 95%CI=1.02–1.09) same day increase in respiratory hospital admissions. Same day chronic obstructive pulmonary disease admissions increased 13% (ORequals;1.13, 95%CI=1.05–1.22) and asthma admissions by 12% (ORequals;1.12, 95%CI=1.05–1.19). Events were also associated with increased admissions for respiratory conditions in Newcastle and Wollongong.

Conclusions : Smoke events were associated with increased hospital admissions for respiratory but not cardiovascular conditions. Large populations are needed to assess the impacts of brief exposures.

Implications : Public health impacts from bushfire pollution events are likely to increase in association with a warming climate and more frequent severe fire weather.