Bushfire, Respiratory protection, Emphysema, bronchitis and Asthma Triggering Health Effects -– BREATHE

Bushfire smoke, asthma, lung disease and masks

What are we studying?

The aim of this research is to determine whether the use of surgical masks and P2 masks protects people with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or bronchiectasis from the effects of smoke exposure during bushfire season in Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. We will compare exposure reduction methods including surgical masks, P2 masks facemasks and avoiding outdoor activities. There is no clinical efficacy data to support the choice and use of facemasks, P2 masks or staying indoors for protection against bushfire smoke. This study has been funded by the Australian Medical Research Futures Fund as part of an urgent call for research into the health effects of bushfires.

What will being in the study involve?

People with asthma or COPD living in bushfire smoke affected areas, who consent to being in the study will be randomly allocated to one of three groups: surgical masks, P2 masks or outdoor air avoidance. If allocated to a mask, you will need to wear a mask when exposed to bushfire smoke. They will be required to fill in a form at the start and the end of the study, and their health will be tracked during a maximum of 4 weeks around controlled backburning between August and November 2020, and through all of December 2020 and January 2021 this summer. A final period of follow up will occur in April 2021. Participants will use air quality alerts as a trigger to wear their mask or avoid outdoor activities, and will fill in a short diary  each day. 



Project team

Professor Raina MacIntyre
Medicine & Health
Dr Abrar Ahmad Chughtai
Medicine & Health
Dr Aye Myat Moa
Medicine & Health
Ms Mallory Jean Trent
Medicine & Health

Project collaborators: External

A/Prof Smita Shah
University of Sydney

Key contact

Medicine & Health
+61 2 9385 0938


Video guide to wearing and removing a surgical mask
Video guide to wearing and removing a P2 mask
How to wear a surgical mask
How to wear a P2 mask