Date published: 
10 January 2020
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

The Australian Government is providing an additional 576,000 P2 masks to South Australia, Tasmania and Australian Defence Force personnel to support bushfire-affected communities.

An additional 505,000 masks have been reserved for New South Wales and 505,600 masks have been reserved for Victoria, following a request from these states.

The Government has already provided more than a million masks to New South Wales, 455,400 to Victoria, 416,000 to the ACT, 19,200 to Australia Post, and 3,000 to the Australian Federal Police.

This brings the total number of P2 masks provided and reserved so far to almost 3.5 million.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the Government had made more masks available from the national stockpile to ensure the safety of people in bushfire-affected communities. 

“The Government is providing 505,600 masks to Defence Force personnel so they can carry out their important work safely,” Minister Hunt said.

“In addition, 64,000 masks are being provided to South Australia and 6,400 masks are being provided to Tasmania, following requests from these states.

“The Government has also begun replenishing the national stockpile of P2 masks.

“The Australian Government is working with states and territories to release further guidance to the community, on the steps they can take to reduce the health risks during prolonged smoke exposure.

“To better understand the potential health impact of smoke exposure, the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth), a subcommittee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), will conduct detailed analysis of the best available science to find what links, if any, exist between health effects and prolonged smoke exposure.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said it was important people in areas affected by bushfire smoke monitor air quality conditions and take all reasonable precautions.

“Bushfire smoke contains fine particulate matter known as PM­2.5, which can cause health effects,” Professor Kelly said.

“Exposure to air pollution over days or weeks increases the risk of illness. Evidence shows the risk of illness declines when air pollution levels fall, even after very long periods of exposure.

“People with heart or lung conditions, children under 14, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with diabetes are at greater risk of experiencing health effects.

“Some people with pre-existing conditions may find the smoke causes a worsening of their symptoms, so it is important these people follow their treatment plans and keep reliever medication close at hand.

“People experiencing symptoms should speak to their doctor.

“Reducing physical exercise outdoors is an important way of minimising exposure, but may not be practical over extended periods.

“Homes should be ventilated during periods of better outdoor air quality to avoid build-up of indoor pollution. Avoiding sources of indoor air pollution like candles and cigarettes can also be helpful.”

Professor Kelly said available supplies of P2 masks should be allocated as a priority to those most at risk of significant health effects from smoke, including:

  • People with existing heart or lung conditions, including angina, ischaemic heart disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (bronchitis and emphysema).
  • People over 65 years of age, as they are more likely to have heart or lung disease.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Diabetics.
Ministers: