- Wildfire smoke can put your health at risk because it’s made of gasses and harmful pollutants.
- The best way to protect your health is to get informed and be prepared.
- If you develop severe symptoms such as a worsening cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, be sure to seek emergency medical care immediately.
The size and frequency of wildfires continue to grow due to climate change. The hotter temperatures and drier conditions are increasing the risk of wildfires every year. It’s no secret that wildfires impact our climate but they greatly impact our health too.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 6.2 million individuals have been affected by wildfires between 1998 and 2017. Those directly impacted by wildfires are forced to flee their homes but the smoke from the fires can threaten the health of Americans thousands of miles away too. The best way to protect your health is to get informed. Follow along as we take a look at the health effects of wildfire smoke, plus ways you can minimize your exposure.
Why Is Wildfire Smoke a Concern?
Wildfire smoke is a concern because it’s made of gasses (like carbon monoxide), as well as fine particles from building materials, burning plants, and water vapor. Particle pollutants, such as benzene, nitrogen dioxide, trioxygen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds are also found in wildfire smoke. Even worse, the smoke and all the harmful pollutants can linger in the air for hours, days, and even weeks.
Wildfire smoke is also a concern because it can make visibility very low as it causes the air to be smoky, hazy, or foggy. Breathing in the smoke can also negatively impact your health too. The BC Centre for Disease Control notes that of all the pollutants, “fine particulate matter (PM2.5) poses the greatest risk to human health.”