University Of Tasmania
141068 - Unprecedented health costs of smoke - Final author version.pdf (6.38 MB)
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Unprecedented health costs of smoke-related PM2.5 from the 2019–20 Australian megafires

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In flammable landscapes around the globe, longer fire seasons with larger, more severely burnt areas are causing social and economic impacts that are unsustainable. The Australian 2019–20 fire season is emblematic of this trend, burning over 8 million ha of predominately Eucalyptus forests over a six-month period. We calculated the wildfire-smoke-related health burden and costs in Australia for the most recent 20 fire seasons and found that the 2019–20 season was a major anomaly in the recent record, with smoke-related health costs of AU$1.95 billion. These were driven largely by an estimated 429 smoke-related premature deaths in addition to 3,230 hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory disorders and 1,523 emergency attendances for asthma. The total cost was well above the next highest estimate of AU$566 million in 2002–03 and more than nine times the median annual wildfire associated costs for the previous 19 years of AU$211 million. There are substantial economic costs attributable to wildfire smoke and the potential for dramatic increases in this burden as the frequency and intensity of wildfires increase with a hotter climate.


Publication title

Nature Sustainability








Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2020 Springer Nature Limited

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Social impacts of climate change and variability; Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified