Doctors angry at lack of action on climate change
WITH fires causing air pollution levels up to eight times the safe limit a group of local doctors have banded together to push for greater action on climate change.
Doctors for the Environment Australia, Mid North Coast, is calling on all levels of government to listen to emergency experts such as former Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins who has described climate change as the ‘key reason why fire seasons are lengthening’ and why fires are harder to control.
Last week the Advocate highlighted the concerns of another local doctor, Dr Ashlea Broomfield from the Toormina Medical Centre, who says the community wants to see more action on climate change.
“People want to see clear leadership and clear decisive action. I don’t believe we’ve been seeing that to the extent we should be,” Dr Broomfield said.
Dr Sarah Mollard is a spokesperson for the Mid North Coast branch of Doctors for the Environment Australia. She is urging people to limit exposure to bushfire smoke and for those required to work outside to take precautions such as wearing an appropriate P1 or P2 rated mask.
“Last Friday, when air pollution levels were more than eight times the safe limit, I was concerned to see people working on road construction without any protective equipment. Workers and employers need to take steps to reduce harmful effects,” Dr Mollard said.
Another local GP to speak out is Dr Claudia Long who has highlighted the impact on businesses in the region.
“It’s having a huge productivity impact with businesses having to close due to staffing problems. I have seen many patients with respiratory distress and other symptoms such as headaches and nausea from elevated carbon monoxide levels,” Dr Long said.
This has also affected health service availability as staff members were sent home due to symptoms related to smoke exposure causing some general practices to close.
“The way the government talks about climate change doesn’t match up with the reality we are facing. They say children shouldn’t miss school to call for stronger action on the climate emergency, but last week many schools were closed due to bushfire risk and children were being sent home sick due to the health impacts of air pollution,” Dr Long said.
Dr John Blyth, who works in Wauchope, expressed his gratitude to RFS volunteers who worked to protect his home, and has called for funding for personal protective equipment for all RFS volunteers to protect them from smoke exposure.
Dr Blyth has expressed anger at those saying this is not the right time to talk about climate change.
“This is a climate emergency, and federal, state and local governments need to change priorities and start actively working towards a renewable future. This must include planning for the impacts of climate change on our communities and adequate resourcing for emergency services”.
NSW Health have a fact sheet on Bushfire Smoke available here.
It lists health consequences of smoke exposure including burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose, bronchitis and worsening of asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.