It may not be listed as one of the side effects of COVID-19 but it now seems the pandemic is having a negative impact on the air we breathe.

A report looking at the ACT’s Air Quality in 2020 found the number of days that emissions from wood heaters rose above National Environment Protection Levels increased, likely due to more people staying and working from home throughout last winter.

The number of days wood smoke rose above standard levels increased by two in 2020.

ACT Environment Minister, Rebecca Vassarotti, hoped people will use the findings of the report as motivation to take up the government’s rebate scheme to replace their wood heaters.

“Wood burning smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles which can be harmful to the environment and the health of people, especially those with heart or lung diseases.”

The Minister also re-affirmed the Territory Government’s commitment to addressing climate change with dust storms and bushfire smoke also severely impacting the ACT’s air quality last year.

“We need to take action against climate change otherwise we will see more intense and frequent occurrences such as dust storms and bushfires and ultimately have poorer air quality in the ACT.”

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“As part of this response, the ACT Government is preparing a smoke and air quality strategy to improve air and health outcomes.”

The strategy is set to include air quality standards for outdoor workers, improved air quality monitoring and better measures designed to protect vulnerable people during incidents of reduced air quality.

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