Jan 2020

“It’s uncharted territory”: How Australia’s fires are impacting children

Every parent knows what it’s like to be stuck inside the house with children on snow days or rainy days,  when the weather causes normal life to grind to a halt. But what if the bad weather was a cloud of noxious fumes caused by giant bushfires? And what if the air inside the house was almost as toxic as the air outside? What would you do then?

The smoke from the fires contains fine particles known as PM 2.5, which are toxic to the human body. This was evident today (Jan. 14), when tennis players suffered from coughing fits and shortness of breath during qualifying matches for the Australian Open tournament in Melbourne. Last week, Australia’s capital, Canberra, had a significantly worse air quality rating than New Delhi or Lahore.

But while everyone might be affected, young children are particularly at risk of respiratory conditions caused by exposure to PM 2.5. Since children are smaller, they’re closer to the ground and they breathe more quickly than adults, and through their mouths instead of their noses (which contain a natural filtration system).

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