Environment Coughing up the true cost of bushfires

Coughing up the true cost of bushfires

A new study has calculated the full health costs of last summer’s bushfire crisis, with smoke-related health costs climbing to almost $2 billion.

The study, led by the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research, found a major anomaly when comparing the latest crisis to the 20 other most recent fire seasons.

The states most impacted were New South Wales ($1.07 billion), followed by Victoria ($493 million) and Queensland ($224 million).

One of the lead authors, PhD. Candidate Nicolas Borchers Arriagada, said the findings show the true financial cost of the fires.

“The total cost was well above the next highest estimate of $566 million in 2002–03 and more than nine times the median wildfire-associated costs for the previous 19 fire seasons of $211 million,” Mr Borchers Arriagada said.

“We estimated that the smoke-related impacts of the most recent fire season included 429 smoke-related premature deaths in addition to 3,230 hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory disorders and 1,523 emergency attendances for asthma.”

He said that death and injury caused by flames are the tip of the iceberg.

“The smoke from the fires is insidious and leaves in its wake extraordinary suffering that has, by and large, until recently been under-estimated and sidelined as a critical management issue.”

“Many survivors of bushfire events are both physically and mentally triggered by smoke for the rest of their lives,” Mr Borchers Arriagada said.

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