Smoke on the water

Prescribed burns to prevent bushfires which have blanketed Perth in smoke over the past week have left people with respiratory conditions gasping for fresh air.

Video: Jenny Schon.

South Perth resident Amelia Turner was diagnosed with a lung disease called bronchiectasis 15 months ago and says she couldn’t go to work for three days this week because she has been so debilitated by the smoke.

Audio: Amelia Turner. Photo (Supplied): Amelia Turner.

“The prescribed burns are a worry for people who have trouble with their lungs,” she says.

Mandurah resident Crystal Dodd and her two children all suffer from asthma and have to close all windows and doors at their home when it is smoky outside.

Pictured above: Fletcher Dodd, Crystal Dodd, and Sienna Dodd. Photos (Supplied): Crystal Dodd.

“It’s hard with ongoing smoke day after day for us that have severe asthma, but you just have to deal with it unfortunately,” she says.

“We have to do extra things like putting towels around the doors, so the smoke doesn’t come in.

“Unless you’re on top of it, it’s very easy to have an asthma attack.”

Asthma WA chief executive Donna Rendell says not everyone with asthma has a smoke trigger, but those who do may experience coughing, wheezing and tightness of the chest.

“It is very important that everyone with asthma regardless of their individual triggers has a current asthma action plan, are taking their medication as prescribed, and have access to their reliever at all times,” she said.

Asthma WA’s Asthma Alert Facebook group posts smoke alerts and planned burn information shared on the Emergency WA website to warn the community.

The Department of Health has urged people to take care in the smoke haze by staying inside and switching off evaporative air conditioners if possible.

Ms Rendell says the health impact of prescribed burns on the community is a priority.

However, research published in The Medical Journal of Australia in April last year found 73 per cent of the days where air pollution exceeded the national standard between 2002 and 2017 were caused by prescribed burns or wildfires.

Mrs Dodd says her friends and family who are not asthmatics have told her even they have struggled to breathe in the smoke.