Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Air pollution disasters: legal issues associated with the provision of personal protective interventions (facemasks) (950)

Fiona McDonald 1 , Claire J Horwell 2
  1. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
  2. Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University , Durham , United Kingdom

Globally, air pollution is the 9th highest cause of morbidity and it has been estimated that exposure to particles < 2.5 µm in diameter caused 8.9 million deaths in 2015. Particulate pollution comes from several sources, including volcanic eruptions, dust-storms, fires and urban emissions. Protecting populations from harmful levels of exposures to particulates is a globally-significant health issue. One intervention to reduce exposure, while measures are being taken to reduce air pollution where this is possible, is facemasks.  This presentation analyses whether there is or may be a legal duty on government agencies to warn and/or to distribute facemasks for community use during air pollution crises in disaster (for example, the 2015 South East Asian haze crisis that led to an estimated 100,000 deaths) or non-disaster contexts (high levels of air pollution due to vehicular and industrial pollution). The presentation will analyse European and international human rights law, with reference to the right to life and the right to respect for private and family life, and the torts of negligence and breach of statutory duty to analyse whether there is or may be a duty of care to warn and/or to provide facemasks in disaster or non-disaster contexts. It will also examine liability issues should a decision to distribute facemasks be made, including the expected standard of care.