Wood fires, burn-offs and bushfire smoke are causing air pollution across Wangaratta, with 30 per cent of days measured in 2017 recording poor or very poor air quality.
In 2017, good or very good air quality was recorded on only 57 per cent of the 328 days tested, down from 98 per cent in 2016, where only 40 days were tested due to the station opening.
Environmental Protection Agency’s chief environmental scientist Andrea Hinwood said Wangaratta was not alone in experiencing many poor days in 2017.
“Last year was unusual for Wangaratta,” she said.
“There were 47 ‘very poor’ days and we had pretty much the same in Melbourne, both had cold conditions, temperature inversion, so people lit up wood fires, we had agricultural burns and bushfires all at the same time.”
Dr Hinwood said because of the inversion, smoke and air pollution particles remained in place.
An EPA report into air quality across the state found the particles polluting Wangaratta could increase respiratory problems and exacerbate cardiac conditions.
Dr Hinwood said because the Wangaratta testing station had been operating for only a short time, it was difficult to tell whether the number of poor or very poor days in 2017 was common for the area.
She said while Wangaratta was the only city in the North East with a monitoring air quality station, conditions would likely be similar across the region.
Dr Hinwood said it was important people, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions, checked air quality online.
“Information is power and allows people to inform themselves in terms of preventing any impact,” she said.
“Air pollution does have an impact on health… if you ask any asthmatic they will tell you air pollution can facilitate asthma.”
Wangaratta doctor Julian Fidge said he was surprised by the EPA findings.
He said he had not seen any evidence of people being affected by poor air quality, nor heard other practitioners remark on it.