Canberra, Feb 24 (IANS) A coalition of health experts have called on the Australian government to urgently establish an air pollution authority in response to the bushfire crisis that claimed the lives of 33 people, killed millions of animals and destroyed thousands of properties since it started last September.

In a paper published by the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, the expers from leading Australian universities warned that the government can’t wait for the findings of the Bushfire Royal Commission to act on the issue of air pollution, reports Xinhua news agency.

Much of Australia’s east coast was blanketed by smoke from the fires that devastated the country.

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all experienced the worst air quality in the world at different times amid the crisis.

In a statement, Sotiris Vardoulakis, the lead author of the paper from Australian National University (ANU), said that the current health protection advice relating to bushfire smoke is “impractical”.

“Telling people to stay indoors or reduce physical activities outdoors isn’t sufficient. Smoke pollution levels vary over hours and days and can change quickly. For this reason, we need hourly averaged particulate air pollution – PM2.5 data – reported in real-time,” he said in a media release.

The paper highlighted inconsistencies in the current approach measuring air quality and called for a uniform national approach.

The proposed independent national expert committee would be charged with measuring air quality and communicating that information to the public while also coordinating research into the impact of air pollution on health.

“Public access to local, user-friendly air quality information and reliable smoke forecasts is essential for managing personal exposure as well as clinical deterioration in sensitive individuals,” the paper said.

“More government investment is needed in air quality monitoring, forecasting and research on public health messaging, and exposure reduction measures to protect Australians from bushfire smoke.”

–IANS

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