THE region's recent poor air quality will come under review during a NSW parliamentary inquiry.
Health minister Greg Hunt initiated the inquiry, which aims to examine the health impacts of exposure to bushfire smoke, suitability of workplace health and safety guidelines, and the government's response to the issue.
The inquiry has been welcomed by several members of the community, including Armidale councillors Debra O'Brien and Dorothy Robinson.
Cr O'Brien said she hoped the inquiry would help the community be better prepared for similar conditions in the future.
"One of the many effects of climate change is the impact on health through the higher frequency of bushfires," Cr O'Brien said.
"Older people, infants and people with respiratory illnesses are clearly the most vulnerable.
"As a retail owner in the Armidale CBD, I noticed far fewer people out and about on the smokiest days.
"The effects of smoke will affect our healthcare system, our businesses and our services through sick days off.
"We need a thorough investigation into the health effects as well as the effects on the economy."
Cr Robinson said poor air quaility could have a number of negative effects on peoples health.
"Bushfire smoke (like wood-heater and cigarette smoke) consists of tiny particles less than 2.5 millionth of a metre - called PM2.5," Cr Robinson said.
"They are so small they behave like gases.
"Like the air we breathe, PM2.5 enter our homes even when all doors and windows are shut.
"Their small size allows them to penetrate the deepest recesses of our lungs.
"They cause inflammation, and can cross into the bloodstream to transport toxins to every organ of the body, including our brains.
"The toxins in wood smoke include many known human carcinogens
"Tasmanian research shows that any exposure to wood smoke PM2.5 over 4 ug/m3, either from bushfires or wood heaters, increases the risk of hospital admission for heart attack.
"This is only a tiny fraction of the current Australian Standard - maximum daily average of 25 ug/m3."
Cr Robinson said Armidale was already taking steps to alert residents of poor air quality conditions.
"Armidale is one of a few locations in NSW to have comprehensive real-time air quality monitors, thanks to the Purple Air sensors installed by residents, by Sustainable Living Armidale, and by Armidale Regional Council," she said.
"Armidale's monitors allow residents to avoid exercising when outdoor pollution is high.
"They also allow residents who are concerned about their health - especially pregnant ladies, families with young children and those over 65 - to close windows and switch on High Efficiency Air Particle (HEPA) filters when outdoor PM2.5 start to build up, so that indoor PM2.5 doesn't reach the hazardous levels measured outdoors.
"HEPA filters work.
"In mice, they've been shown to reduce genetic damage in offspring.
"In healthy human volunteers, they've been shown to reduce inflammatory blood markers, even when outdoor wood smoke PM2.5 averages 10 ug/m3, less than half the current daily standard.
"The benefits are likely to be even greater benefits when air quality reaches poor or hazardous levels."
In December, the New England North West regions had some of the worst air quality in the world, often greater than infamously polluted cities such as Beijing and Mumbai.
NSW Health statistics show the state's poor air quality conditions prompted a 25 per cent increase in emergency room presentations and a 30 per cent increase in ambulance call outs for breathing issues.
Both councillors said they would support an air quality and climate emergency working group, to help find the best ways to protect residents from the threats of a changing climate.
The parliamentary inquiry has been established by the legislative council's health portfolio committee.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson have been contacted for comment.