Air quality in St George and Sutherland Shire is at "hazardous" levels

Orange hue: A thick smoky haze, seen here from Westfield Miranda's rooftop carpark, is choking St George and Sutherland Shire today. Picture: John Veage
Orange hue: A thick smoky haze, seen here from Westfield Miranda's rooftop carpark, is choking St George and Sutherland Shire today. Picture: John Veage

Sport has been cancelled, washing is ruined and vehicles are caked in orange dust. And there is no sign of a reprieve for St George and Sutherland Shire residents who have spent the week choking through the smoky conditions caused by bushfires affecting parts of Sydney and NSW.

The air quality index for the greater Sydney metropolitan region is this afternoon at "hazardous" levels - the highest recorded. Levels recorded at Sydney East monitoring stations are more than triple what is considered dangerous.

An air quality index is hazardous when it reaches 200. Sydney East's reading at 2pm today was 670, meaning everyone is at risk of serious health effects.

The reading has prompted an air pollution health alert for people to significantly cut back on outdoor physical activities. People who are particularly sensitive should completely avoid any outdoor exercise.

Some pharmacies in St George have reportedly sold out of dust masks, as people try to minimise the risks of breathing in tiny particles associated with this level of air pollution.

NSW Health warns that smoke can cause health problems, particularly if you have a pre-existing lung or heart condition such as asthma, emphysema, angina or heart failure.

"The best way to avoid breathing in the smoke is to remain inside with the windows and doors closed, preferably in an air-conditioned building,'' NSW Health says.

"People should avoid outdoor physical activity, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition such as asthma. People with asthma should follow their asthma management plans and make sure you keep your reliever medication close by."

Don't forget your pet: Pebbles the Dalmation takes in the view at Wanda beach this afternoon. Pet owners are being warned animals can also suffer ill effects from smoke. Picture: John Veage

Don't forget your pet: Pebbles the Dalmation takes in the view at Wanda beach this afternoon. Pet owners are being warned animals can also suffer ill effects from smoke. Picture: John Veage

NSW Ambulance says people with respiratory issues can be the first to feel the effects of smoke while even healthy adults and children can be impacted by heavy smoke, which can cause lung irritation.

"These conditions can have a serious impact on your health and it is important to remember that our bodies have to work extra hard to cope or cool down," NSW Ambulance said.

"Ensure you stay hydrated and pay particular attention to any symptoms (dizziness, headaches, racing pulse or nausea) of heat-related illness."

A South Eastern Sydney Local Health District spokeswoman said there had so far been no spike in presentations at either St George or Sutherland hospitals' emergency departments as a result of the smoke.

For more information about what the air quality index means click here