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Smoke from a landfill fire


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This information has been prepared so that you know what to do to protect your health and the health of anyone in your care who may be exposed to smoke from a landfill fire.

For information about a specific fire or emergency incident, listen to your local emergency radio station for updates or visit www.emergency.vic.gov.au

If you are at the scene of an emergency, always follow the directions of emergency services, such as ambulance officers, police or fire services.

Key points about smoke from a landfill fire

  • Landfills accept different types of industrial, commercial or domestic waste.
  • Smoke from a landfill fire contains fine particles, water vapour and gases including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Other substances may also be present, depending on what is burning.
  • If you do not need to be in the area, stay away from a landfill fire. If you live or work near the fire, avoid the smoke as much as possible. Stay indoors away from the smoke and reduce physical activity. Keep windows and doors closed.
  • For regular updates on what you should do, listen to your local emergency radio station or visit www.emergency.vic.gov.au
  • People with a heart or lung condition, including asthma, children (up to 14 years), pregnant women and people over 65 years of age are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke.
  • If you have a heart or lung condition, take your medication as prescribed. Asthmatics should follow their personal asthma action plan and keep reliever medication on hand.
  • If you or anyone in your care is experiencing symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 or seek medical advice.
  • Anyone experiencing difficulty breathing, wheezing or tightness in the chest should seek urgent medical assistance – call 000.

Further information

Vic Emergency

For more information about specific incidents and emergencies go to: www.emergency.vic.gov.au

Local emergency radio station

For current information about specific incidents and emergencies, listen to your local emergency radio station.

NURSE-ON-CALL

For immediate health advice from a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1300 60 60 24.

Department of Health and Human Services

For more information on the health effects of smoke from a landfill fire, or rainwater tank water quality, call 1300 761 874 during business hours.

EPA Victoria

Information about air quality and other impacts of a fire on the environment is available from EPA Victoria on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).

Local government

Contact your local council for advice about rainwater tank water quality.

Q&A on smoke from a landfill fire + Expand all Collapse all

  • What is landfill?

    A landfill is a facility that accepts different types of industrial, commercial or domestic wastes.

    In Victoria, one landfill accepts high-hazard prescribed industrial waste. Other operating landfills accept low-hazard prescribed wastes such as low-level contaminated soil, packaged asbestos and odorous food or municipal wastes.

    In addition to operating landfills there are a number of closed landfills.

  • What is in smoke from a landfill fire?

    Smoke from a landfill fire contains different substances depending on the type of waste that is burning.

    Smoke from a landfill fire: 

    • can reduce air quality around the site and in the neighbouring areas
    • contains fine particles, water vapour, gases such as methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and other substances
    • should be avoided as much as possible as the health effects from breathing in the smoke are not fully known in the early stages of a fire.
  • How can smoke affect my health?

    How smoke affects your health depends on the type of waste that is burning, your age, whether you have an existing medical condition, how active you are in smoky conditions and how long you are exposed to the smoke.

    People with a heart or lung condition, including asthma, children (up to 14 years), pregnant women and people over 65 years of age are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke.

    If you have a heart or lung condition, take your medication as prescribed.

    Asthmatics should follow their personal asthma action plan and keep reliever medication on hand.

    If you or anyone in your care experiences symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 or seek medical advice.

    Call 000 if anyone is having difficulty breathing or is experiencing wheezing or tightness in the chest.

  • What can I do to protect my health from smoke during a landfill fire?

    If you do not need to be in the area, stay away from a landfill fire.

    If you live or work close to the fire, avoid the smoke as much as possible by staying indoors until the fire is controlled or out. Keep windows and doors closed.

    Reduce physical activity, and if you have an existing heart or lung condition rest as much as possible.

    During a fire, listen to your local emergency radio station or visit www.emergency.vic.gov.au for updates on air quality and what you should do.

    If it is hot and you operate an air-conditioner, switch it to ‘recirculate’ or ‘reuse air’. This limits the amount of smoke particles coming inside.

    If your home is uncomfortable, and it is safe to do so, consider taking a break away from the smoke. Visit an area not affected by the smoke or visit a local air-conditioned building such as a library, community centre or shopping centre.

    If it is safe to do so, check on elderly neighbours or other people who you think might need extra help.

  • What about wearing a face mask?

    It is better to stay inside away from the smoke, unless you cannot avoid working outside.

    Ordinary paper dust masks, handkerchiefs or bandannas do not protect you from fine smoke particles or gases.

    Special face masks (P2 masks) provide better protection from breathing in fine smoke particles.

    Before deciding to use a P2 mask, note that:

    • they can be hot and uncomfortable to wear and make it harder to breathe normally
    • anyone with an existing heart or lung condition should seek medical advice before using one
    • they do not provide a close seal if someone has a beard
    • they are not designed for a child’s face
    • they do not protect you from gases such as carbon monoxide.
  • I am concerned about the health of my pets. What should I do?

    During smoky conditions, and if practical to do so, bring pets indoors with you.

    If you have any concerns about the health of your pets, consult your local vet.

  • Can I drink water from my rainwater tank?

    Drink reticulated water. If you have a rainwater tank and the water tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not use it for drinking, bathing or for pets.

    Contact the Environmental Health Officer at your local council or the Department of Health and Human Services for more information.

  • What should I do around the home?

    After the fire is controlled or out, open doors and windows to sunlight and fresh air, and air soft furnishings in the sunshine.

    Wipe down indoor surfaces with water. Wash any visible surface film with soap and water.

    If clothes were on the clothesline during smoky conditions, rewash them. If smoke is still present, dry clothes indoors or in a dryer.

Page last updated on 29 Dec 2017