The health effects caused by air pollutants may range from:
subtle biochemical and physiological changes difficulty breathing wheezing coughing aggravation of existing respiratory and
For many of us, smoke will make us cough and may make our eyes and nose run. However, the young, elderly and sensitive
populations with existing conditions of either cardiovascular disease or respiratory disorders such as asthma, emphysema, chronic
bronchitis or allergy problems, may find they become very sick and need special treatment on days when there is a lot of smoke in
the air. These effects can result in increased use of medication, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospital
admissions, and even premature death.
As a society, we pay for the health effects of air pollution in many ways. Additional health care costs for the treatment of these
effects may come from:
hospital admissions visits to the emergency room or doctor's office homecare service medication such as inhalers for asthma.
Other considerations include lost productivity in the workplace, lost wages due to sick time, out of pocket expenses incurred while
ill (eg additional child care costs), lost quality of life, or ultimately loss of life itself.
The Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA) is the primary environment protection legislation
The fundamental basis of EMPCA is the prevention, reduction and remediation of environmental harm.
This is defined very broadly in section 5 of the Act as:
"any adverse effect on the environment (of whatever degree or duration) and includes an environmental nuisance" (the latter is
defined as 'the emission of a pollutant that unreasonably interferes with, or is likely to interfere with, a person's enjoyment of the
Section 53A of the EMPCA states:
“ 53A. Evidentiary provision for environmental nuisance .
If, in a proceeding for an offence against section 53(1) or (2), an authorized officer or a council officer gives evidence, based on the
officer’s own senses, that noise, smoke, dust, fumes or odour was emitted from a place occupied by the defendant and travelled
to, or was, or was likely to be, detectable at, a place occupied by another person, that evidence is prima facie evidence of the
matters so stated.”
We also have.....
"The Environment Protection Policy (Air Quality) 2004 provides a framework for the management and regulation of both point
and diffuse sources of emissions to air for pollutants with the potential to cause environmental harm. The Policy was made on 13
December 2004 and came into effect on 1 June 2005.
The environmental values to be protected under the Air Quality Policy are:
The life, health and well-being of humans
The life, health and well-being of other forms of life
This is not what is happening in Tasmania.
"Many smoke exposure events will therefore not result in a formal investigation and so
Back yard burning:
At this point no one seems to be adminstering our environmental Act or Regulations in relation to burning on blocks greater than 2000 square meters of more.
The EPA have maintained councils are the correct people to be dealing with back yard burning on block sizes of 2000 square meters or greater.
Our local West Tamar Council sought legal advice and following that advice maintain they cannot help me in relation to back yard burning pollution. The WTC correspondence can be read here.
21. 09. 2012 - My letter to the EPA Board advising them of West Tamar Council's legal advice in relation to back yard burning.
26. 09. 2012 - Letter from the EPA Director regarding legal Interpretation of legislative powers relating to back yard burning
28. 09. 2012 - My letter to the EPA Director asking for this matter to be clarified One more back yard burn could result in smoke related death.
19. 12. 2013 - My letter to EPA Director asking what is happening.
29. 01. 2014 - Response from Mr. John Mollison, Delegate for the Director
06.10. 2014 - Various emails
20.11. 2014 - EPA Director confirms nothing has been done to clarify the situation.
"Councils have responsibility for management of smoke issues on those blocks of less than 2000 square meters and the EPA for those over."
Alan Garcia, CEO, Local Government Association of Tasmania - 12/6/2012
"...this advice leaves no room for Council to proceed with your request for the creation of a by-law to control burning on land which has an area in excess of 2000 m2."
Rolph Vos, Development Services Manager West Tamar Council - 22/12/2011
"... the EPA does nort directly regulate smoke from domestic sources including backyard burning activities.
Local Council is the responsible authority..."
Alex Schaap, Director, EPA- 22/11/2011
"Individual councils can enact by-laws to restrict burning on larger blocks" (2000 square or more)
Ellis Cox, Environmental Liason Officer, EPA - 12/6/2012
Double click to edit
E P A Tasmania
"Would the EPA consider placing notices in the newspapers and posting out messages in the mail to every land owner outlining what you have suggested to me, ie, requesting those undertaking burning desist or do so in a manner which does not cause nuisance smoke?"
Clive Stott -12/11/2012
"I regret I am not able to offer much in the way of advertising or distribution of educational material."
Alex Schaap, Director EPA - 30/11/2012.
" With respect, I do not agree the most productive path for me is to deal directly with those undertaking burning. I feel this is risking me being put at physical harm from irate burners, and when burning does take place, my health will be put at risk directly from the smoke."
"...it is a state- wide problem. I do not know who burns in areas that I may wish to go to.
I cannot be asked to "engage directly" with every burner in every area I go to that is making nuisance smoke." Clive Stott -12/11/2012
"I have reviewed the advice provided to council and taken further advice. It is clear to me that a Council is able to make bylaws regarding such burning and it is clear to me that it is open to Council to prosecute in the event that burning occurs in a way which causes nuisance."
"Until the matter is settled, the most productive path in the short term may be for you to engage directly with those undertaking burning in your area and request them to desist or do so in a manner which does not cause smoke nuisance."
Alex Schaap, Director, EPA - 5/11/2012
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is Tasmania’s principal environmental regulator. The EPA administers the
Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 and is an integral part of Tasmania's Resource Management and
The EPA’s purpose is to regulate developments and activities that may impact on environmental quality and to promote best
practice, sustainable environmental management.
The EPA is supported by the EPA Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. The Division
supports the EPA to enable it to make well informed environmental assessment decisions, through an efficient integrated
assessment process and to regulate to ensure that major industrial, municipal and community activities employ best practice
The Division further supports the EPA to promote and facilitate the adoption of clean and sustainable practices, to provide the
community with information about the quality of the environment and to improve ambient environmental quality, including the
remediation of historical environmental damage.
The Tasmanian Environment Division made these claims on it's website on the 4th May 2008 when this page was first published:
"Clean air is one of our most precious resources, essential for our survival and quality of life."
"Air and water quality is indispensable to the health of individuals, communities and the natural environment.
The Department is working to address air, noise and water pollution issues."
"The state of Tasmania's environment is important to the health and safety of all Tasmanians.
We aim to ensure that our environment is clean and healthy by protecting our air, water, soil and ecosystems, and by avoiding and
remedying adverse effects of activities on the environment."
The health effects of poor air quality due to woodsmoke are far reaching, but principally affect:the body's respiratory system - the
lungs the cardiovascular system - the heart and blood vessels.
At high concentrations these tiny particles can aggravate breathing problems like asthma, bronchitis and infections like pneumonia
and in some cases can cause permanent lung damage or other lung diseases. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the
type of pollutant to which a person is exposed, the amount of which the person is exposed, and the individual's health and genetics.
Click on the EPA logo above to go to the informative and comprehensive EPA website
EPA Annual Reports for 2008 and onwards - read about air quality.
Small-scale 'waste-removal' burning.
It might infuriate some people who are against open burning because of the harmful smoke it produces, and let’s face it they have a point because our national body, the Australian Government Dept. of Environment, says in regard to managing smoke from biomass burning, "Alternatives to burning are now encouraged because they have less impact on air quality and are more environmentally sustainable."
But also let’s face it, less is best, and in reality a prohibition on all types of open burning is not going to happen in some countries of the world, or within some states, or even with some unimformed councils.
The full burning spectrum covers no burning in some places, to unregulated extremely toxic green smoky burns in others, and every process in between.
So what is best, do we bash our heads unsuccessfully to go for a total ban, or do we look at other approaches in the interim to greatly reduce the smoke from these burns that are quite capable of killing susceptible people and making many others suffer?
The article at http://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/management-of-planned-burning was produced by the State Government EPA Air Quality Section in Tasmania, Australia. It is an excellent piece of work showing how smoke from small scale open burns can be minimized and surely this must be a good thing? People must be made to follow it though until a complete ban comes into place.
There are small-scale waste removal methods that do not necessitate burning.
“Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies” - US EPA