Burn-off air scare

 Burn-off air scare

27 April 2008

published by www.news.com.au

Tasmania, Australia — Smoke haze from burn-offs pushed Tasmania close to breaching air safety standards last week.

In one 24-hour period, emission levels from the forestry regeneration and fuel-reduction burns “were approaching the standard”, state environmental management director Warren Jones told the Sunday Tasmanian.

Elevated particle levels had been detected in Launceston and Hobart on several days during the week.

But Mr Jones said the preliminary tests, which are not accredited against the standard, suggested the National Environment Protection Measure Standard for PM10 particulates of 50 micrograms per cubic metre had not been breached at any time.

Full test results will be available in two weeks.

Breaches of the national emissions standard can incur hefty court-imposed fines.

The standard is policed by the Environment Division of the State Government under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994.

A Sunday Tasmanian investigation into the smoke haze has revealed:

Between 5000ha and 7000ha is earmarked for forestry regeneration burns this season. About 70,000ha of the state’s forest was razed by wildfire in the past summer.

The smoke contains a mix of carbon monoxide, tar, ash, ammonia and known carcinogens such as formaldehyde and benzene.

The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from forestry burns could reach an estimated 1.54 million tonnes during this burn-off season, according to forest industry projections in 2001.

The Royal Hobart Hospital said there had been no noticeable increase in patient admissions because of air-quality issues since last Sunday.

Forestry Tasmania burn-offs in the Derwent Valley were cancelled last weekend to avoid adding to the smoke haze.

The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed an unusually still weather pattern had contributed to the build-up of smoke over the state.

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