Biomass smoke and health

Current CAR investigators involved: CIs Morgan, Jalaludin, and Abramson, AI Johnston

The project “Air Pollution and Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrests in Melbourne” investigates the association between particulate matter (PM) air pollution and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest using a case-crossover study of adults (age > 35 years) in Melbourne, Australia. 8434 cases with presumed cardiac aetiology were identified through the Victorian Cardiac Arrest Registry from 2003 through 2006. It was found that an increase in ambient daily PM2.5 was associated with an increased risk for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (Epidemiology, 2010; 21: 494-500.). We are currently investigating the effect of shorter term (hourly) exposure immediately prior to the arrest.

Another project investigates whether living near a major road in Melbourne is a risk factor for the development of eczema in susceptible children by using data from a longitudinal family study of childhood allergies and asthma in a high risk cohort. This cohort study started in 1990/1994 and is still ongoing and we are now able to investigate whether early life exposure to traffic pollutants increases the risk of developing asthma later in life. Furthermore we are studying the effects of traffic air pollution in another ongoing cohort study with older participants (recruited in 1992 when they were 20 to 44 years). We were able to geocode the addresses of the participants in both these cohorts as detailed information was available.

At present there is a gap in research relating to acute cardiac and respiratory events that occur during bushfire smoke episodes. In particular the high concentrations which occurred during the 2006–2007 bushfires in Victoria have provided unique data to better investigate associations between biomass smoke and cardiorespiratory health. We first investigated the health effects of the bushfire smoke on people living in Melbourne by looking at the association between ambulance attendances and emergency hospital presentations using air quality monitors. We will now expand on this by including rural Victoria and refining the exposure assessment by using state-of-the-art air quality models developed by CSIRO.