Updated: Apr 25
AUTHOR: Lee Reicheneder
There have been fires in every Australian state, but New South Wales (NSW) has been hardest hit with NSW Rural Fire Service reporting on the 10th January that 1,995 homes, 203 facilities and 4,041 outbuildings had been destroyed since the start of the fire season with these numbers likely increasing throughout the season. Furthermore, 29 people have been confirmed dead, more than 800 million wildlife estimated to have been killed and over 1 billion of our wild life are estimated to have been impacted by the bushfires so far. Meanwhile, hundreds of fires have been blazing across our country with New South Wales alone having 147 fires burning on the 11th January. Many areas of Australia were either on fire or choking from the smoke.
In December the smoke was so bad in Sydney NSW that air quality measured 11 times the "hazardous" level and in early January smoke became so bad in Canberra ACT that air quality measured more than 26 times the "hazardous" level with Canberra air quality being rated as the worst air quality in the world. Canberra is in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), it is surrounded by the state of New South Wales and at this time bushfires surrounded the ACT. The Emergency Services Agency ( ACT ESA) helping New South Wales to fight fires while ensuring fires did not cross the border entering the ACT urban areas. Canberra's ranking of the worst air quality in the world held on for several days with little reprieve from the extremely hazardous air quality levels and this air quality from the smoke shut down numerous businesses/services in Canberra including: Questacon, Cockington Green, some Banks, various Educational Facilities, various Pools, several Shops and even Postal Services.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Tony Bartone has been quoted in various news outlets warning people to be aware and to seek medical help when needed "The length and density of smoke exposure is a new and possibly fatal health risk that many people within our community have not previously had to face". Furthermore, there has been the greatest concern for children under the age of 14, elderly, those with pre-existing health ailments, and also those who are pregnant as they are the most at risk from the smoke. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) president Dr Vijay Roach acknowledged the significant risk the bushfire smoke places on those in the 'most at risk' categories, particularly for those who are pregnant stating "Exposure to air pollution in pregnancy has been linked to increased rates of preterm birth, decreased birth weight, hypertensive disorder of pregnancy and gestational diabetes." and that these risks are increased when there is exposure to the smoke over a long period of time. Unfortunately, at this time there is no way to simply clear this degree of smoke travelling across our land from raging bushfires which could be argued as being preventable through following customs of our first nations people who read the land. Instead, we must simply trust in our Mother Earth to help us as our emergency services made up of many dedicated staff and volunteers (some who have also lost homes or their lives) battle the fallout of our hurt land.
The health of our land in Australia has been of great concern to many first nations people for a long time as many on our country scrape their way through what may be the worst drought in over 400-800 years (depending on the source). Many first nations people have pointed out the sickness of our country and warned of extensive severe fires resulting from both drought and current fire prevention/management methods. On the 6th of October the Wirradjuri People concerned with the drought and health of the land welcomed 2000 people to a Corroberree in Wagga Wagga NSW. Then from the 28th November onwards traditional custodians of the land and their Nations across our country were encouraged to dance on country as one in time with the 400+ nations dancing to heal our country and dance they did with news reports about traditional custodians of our land gathering together across our nation. Finally rain started to fall and it helped our emergency services crews to decrease the amount of fires burning and control others. The number of fires burning in NSW has decreased from the 147 fires burning on the 11th January to 64 fires by 21st January with only 16 left that are not contained. However, fires are still burning and smoke from those fires is still impacting on some locations in Australia; therefore, this article hopes to provide some information on the different methods that can be used to reduce exposure and detox the body.
HOW TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO THE SMOKE:
Reduce your time outdoors in the smoke and if you must go consider wearing a P2/N95 mask
Keep windows and doors shut then open everything up again to air our the house when smoke is gone
Put towels at the bottom of your doors and windows plus shut curtains or shutters where you can (see below).
Damp towels and damp curtains help purify air- dampen if possible & change over when/where you can
Set house and care aircon to recycle or recirculate to prevent drawing in air from outside
Turn off air con that draws in air from outside such as the evaporative systems and some portable systems.
Consider investing in an air purifier and set it up in the room you frequent - make sure it has a HEPA filter
HOW TO ASSIST THE BODY IN COPING WITH AND/OR DETOXING FROM THE SMOKE:
Drink lots of fluids particularly boiled or filtered pure water
Ensure you are maintaining a healthy vitamin C intake with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
Using saline nose spray can help promote the expulsion of foreign matter
Running a cool vaporiser inside with lemon and/or peppermint may support the respiratory system & detox
A drop of lavender and lemon or peppermint in a vaporiser may help ease nausea, clear toxins & help lungs
A drop of tea tree and lavender or lemon to vaporisers or room sprays may help clear air & detox the body
Run a bath with epsom salts in it add a drop of lavender if desired - both may help draw toxins from body
Consume foods and drinks that help support the body to detox from the smoke in a healthy way
FOODS AND DRINKS GREAT FOR SMOKE DETOX & SUPPORT IN COPING WITH SMOKE
Cucumber, Carrots, Grapefruit, Turmeric, Lemon, Red Onion, Spinach, Brocolli, Cauliflower, Red Apple, Orange & Garlic all help to support the lungs which are often under the most strain
Watermelon, Black Current, Blueberries, Cranberries, Grapes, Millet, Barley, Asparagus & Lemon are believed to support the kidneys to detox & effective kidney functioning
Green Apples, Cabbage, Broccolli, Beetroot, Lentils, Lemon, Sweet Potato &Turnip support the liver & colon
Filtered and/or Boiled Water - Hot water and Hot Soups are great they help the body detox faster than cold
Vegetable Juices and Fruit Juices - best if they are free from additives and preservatives
It is important to note in relation to the information above that tea tree is said to be 'possibly safe' during pregnancy; however, it is believed to potentially cross the placenta and there are not many studies are available on use during pregnancy or its safety during this time. As with any essential oil, remedy, information or options available please ensure you do your own research and make an informed choice based on that research and your own unique circumstances. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted directly or indirectly from the bushfires and we hope you have found this article informative and helpful in some way.
ARTICLE DISCLAIMER: Lee is a Canberra Doula who also spent over 5 years working in the childcare field as a childcare educator (including as a Room Leader); she holds relevant children's services qualifications alongside Doula qualifications. In addition, Lee holds a wide range of qualifications and training in fields that include but are not limited to trauma and natural therapies. Lee is a proud Aspie woman and mother of 5 children (2 with disabilities). If you have concerns about your child's development, family member's wellbeing or your own wellbeing speak to your Midwife or Doctor. Furthermore, a small commission is made on some of the links provided within these blog articles
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