Sydney smoke a ‘public health emergency’

By AAP Newswire

Doctors, nurses and medical scientists have united to declare bushfire-related air pollution in NSW a public emergency and call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to put health at the forefront of real climate action.

A joint statement signed by 22 health and medical organisations says the levels of air pollution in the state in recent weeks and what's expected in the immediate future "remain hazardous to people's health".

"There is no safe level of air pollution," the statement released on Monday says.

"This is a public health emergency. Governments have a responsibility to protect the people they represent."

The alliance states air pollution was linked to diseases throughout life including impaired lung development in children, heart disease, lung cancer and premature births.

It said the federal and NSW governments must prioritise action to reduce health risks from bushfire smoke.

"We call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to demonstrate the leadership this public health emergency demands and to implement measures to help alleviate the health and climate crisis," it says.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australian College for Emergency Medicine, the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and Lung Foundation Australia are among the signatories.

The peak bodies for specialist doctors, dietitians, Victorian medical scientists and social workers also signed.

The Australian Medical Association is not a signatory but did join UK and US counterparts in September in recognising climate change as a "health emergency".

The Climate and Health Alliance, which led the production of the letter, said climate change was going to get much worse.

"The immediate crisis is a really a sign of things to come and that is not being talked about," CAHA executive director Fiona Armstrong told AAP.

"These events are going to become more and more frequent and the concern is that neither the NSW or federal governments are coming clean about that."

The former nurse said Australia needed to play its part in reducing global emissions to combat climate change.

"Denial of this problem has not served us well," she said

"We are a blocker not a leader on these issues, despite being one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change."