November report for Environment, Climate and Health

4 November 2020

Good news

Robyn Lucas has been invited by the International Commission on non-Ionising Radiation Protection to join an international working group to review the effects on health of chronic exposure to UV radiation.

Keynote and invited presentations

Robyn Lucas will provide an invited presentation to the ACT MS Symposium on 4 November, entitled Sun exposure, vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. 

Jo Lane facilitating and providing a research update on the MS Stream of the Our Health in Our Hands Project at the ACT MS Symposium 2020 on 2-6 November. 

Sotiris Vardoulakis was invited panellist at the Landscape fire smoke workshop organised by the Centre for Air Pollution, Energy and Health Research (CAR), Theme: Policy settings for protecting health. 

Sotiris Vardoulakis presented at the ANU Conversations across the Creek session on bushfires on 16 October 2020.

Other conference presentations

Vardoulakis S., Walsh E., Lucas R., James T., Hunter A., Palfrey N., Laachir K. 2020. Bushfire smoke – public health communication during the Black Summer and beyond. Australian Public Health Conference 2020.

RSPH workshops and seminars

Jo Lane presented on ‘Conversations and Connection’ for Mental Health Month for the RSPH lunchtime seminar on 15th October.


Our paper on bushfire smoke and public health communication has received the Advocacy and Leadership Award of the Australian Public Health Conference 2020: Vardoulakis S., Walsh E., Lucas R., James T., Hunter A., Palfrey N., Laachir K., and the ANU Bushfire Impact Working Group. 

Robyn Lucas and Arnagretta Hunter (ANUMS), on behalf of the Bushfire Impact Working Group, have been awarded the Australian Hospitals and Healthcare Association Sidney Sax Award 2020 for health leadership.

Media releases/interest

Sotiris Vardoulakis gave interviews to 

- ABC News TV on the Bushfire Royal Commission Final Report, 31 Oct 2020 

- The Age, on COVID-19 transmission via fomites, 20 Oct 2020

New staff

Nina Lazarevic has joined the PFAS Health Study Team as a Research Fellow. She will be based in Sydney, but we hope to be able to organise some visits so Nina can meet the team in person. 

Rose Hosking and Amelia Joshy have also joined the PFAS Health Study team. They will be doing some casual work with the team for the next few months helping with the survey and blood serum study.

Student news

Three medical students working on projects in multiple sclerosis completed their papers on time. At least two of these are very close to being ready for submission. One has been submitted for presentation at a major US MS conference in 2021 (ACTRIMS Forum).

Papers accepted/published:

Lal, A., Patel, M., Hunter, A., & Phillips, C. Towards resilient health systems for increasing climate extremes: insights from the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season. International Journal of Wildland Fire.

Progress on research projects

The PFAS Health Study – Fieldwork in the comparison areas is ongoing, with the number of registrations from interested invitees slowly dropping off. We have had a terrific response from the assisted mail-out. Analysis is underway on the cross-sectional survey and blood serum data for the exposed communities. Analysis is underway on the linked perinatal data for NSW, Qld 

and NT. The national data is currently being linked by AIHW, which should be finalised in the next month. 

Research Proposal submitted: Efficacy of Respirator Fit Testing to Protect Health Care Workers in the ACT (Sotiris Vardoulakis) 

Climate Change and Health Policy and 5-Year Action plan for the Marshall Islands – Working on final project deliverable (Vardoulakis et al.) 

Cross-college bushfire smoke children's book project – Interviews with schools completed; literature review ongoing. -science/bushfire-smoke-childrens-book 

(RSPH involvement: Sotiris Vardoulakis, Erin Walsh, Ginny Sargent, and Liz Drummond) 

COVID-19 airborne transmission systematic review – abstract screening completed, full-text screening and data extraction ongoing (Sotiris Vardoulakis and Daniela Espinoza). 

COVID-19 sewage monitoring programme is ongoing (Aparna Lal). 

Bushfire Response – Air Quality Monitoring Programme: pilot monitoring completed in two households (Sotiris Vardoulakis, Ben Keaney) 

Contribution to the MC2020 study led by ANUMS:

Sun Exposure and Vitamin D Supplementation (SEDS) Study – Analysis and drafting of manuscripts for this study is ongoing.

Bushfire Health Study – Analysis and drafting of manuscripts for this project is ongoing. 

MRFF - Building community resilience to promote mental health in bushfire-affected communities – Postdoctoral and RA team members have been employed. Considerable work has gone into development of the phase one community survey and this will be submitted for ethics consideration shortly.

The Australian National COVID-19 Mental Health, Behaviour and Risk Communication Survey – The initial publication of baseline results from this study has been accepted by Frontiers in Psychiatry. Multiple other papers are at various stages of submission/preparation.