Law Research News

Air pollution and the ethics of wearing facemasks

Air pollution is a topical issue in this country and in many places around the world, and disasters involving severe air pollution episodes create a pressing public health issue. Health agencies and governments may face pressure during such emergencies to provide solutions to help protect affected communities. One possible intervention to reduce exposure to air pollution during such crises is facemasks.

Associate Professor Fiona McDonald has led an international team of researchers who have developed a framework to support ethical decision-making on whether governments and health agencies should recommend or provide facemasks to the public.

The ethical framework consists of eight questions that could be raised during air pollution disasters. The researchers argue that clarity around decision-making by governments and health agencies, after using this framework, may help increase trust about the intervention and solidarity within and between populations affected by these disasters and the agencies who provide assistance during air pollution events.

You can read the research paper in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Implications for employers

Fiona discussed a case involving an employee in Hawaii on the ABC Radio National Breakfast Program recently.

About Fiona McDonald

Fiona is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law and a Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research. Fiona’s research encompasses issues related to health governance and has four broad themes:

  • the governance of health and systems (with a focus on rural bioethics and disaster response);
  • the governance of health technologies;
  • the governance of health professionals; and
  • the governance of health organisations.

Fiona’s work has been published in a range of international journals and she has presented at a number of international conferences. You can read more about Fiona in her staff profile.

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