Disasters may impact air quality through the generation of high levels of potentially pathogenic particulate matter (PM), for example, in a volcanic eruption. High levels of PM can create significant public health issues. It has been argued that air pollution, in and of itself, is a public health crisis.
One possible intervention to reduce exposure to high levels of PM during an air pollution disaster is using facemasks. However, agencies may be reluctant to recommend or distribute facemasks for community use for a variety of reasons, including concerns about liability. There has been no analysis of these concerns.
This paper analyses whether agencies may have a legal duty of care in negligence to provide warnings about the health risks associated with air pollution disasters and/or to recommend facemasks as a protective mechanism for community use. It is also the first to examine the potential for liability in negligence, when a decision is made to distribute facemasks for community use during a disaster and the receiver alleges that they sustained a personal injury and seeks compensation.
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