SUNDAY, September 30, 2021 (HealthDay News )

You might assume that people in states like Colorado, California, or Oregon would be the only ones impacted by wildfires in the western United States.

However, according to a new study , east of the Rocky Mountains is where 75 percent of smoke-related fatalities and emergency department visits for asthma occur in the United States.

The study’s principal investigator, Katelyn O’Dell, who was a professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, remarked, “We don’t typically talk about smoking in the East.” Because you assume, “Oh, that’s a western problem,” I wonder if there is a lack of awareness.

Smoke does, in fact, contribute to a higher percentage of health issues in the West, but it also impacts a larger population in the East, according to the study’s authors.

The study found that in some years, smoking accounts for more than 1% of asthma complaints and trips to emergency rooms in the western United States, where population density is lower and smoke concentrations are higher.

Between 0.3% and 0.6% of emergency room visits occurred on the East Coast, which is more populous and has lower smoke levels. But the study found that there were more emergency visits overall.

The American Geophysical Union’s journal, GeoHealth, has published the findings.
According to the study, long-term smoke exposure causes an additional 6,300 deaths annually, with roughly 1,700 of those fatalities occurring in the West.

Part of the issue is what’s inside that smoke. Smoke contains hazardous gases in addition to microscopic particles known as PM2.5, which penetrate the lungs and cause a variety of health issues. 18 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) found in smoke, including formaldehyde and benzene, were also examined in the study.

The researchers hypothesize that HAPs are a less significant but more unknown factor than PM2.5 in health issues associated with smoking.

asthma and other respiratory health issues are associated to short-term exposure to PM2.5. According to research, prolonged exposure may increase the risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease as well as premature death in general.

The frequency and burned area of large wildfires are expected to rise in the western United States. By the end of the century, fires are anticipated to overtake other sources as the main source of PM2.5 in the United States, according to O’Dell, a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

To be ready for the future, she said, research into how wildfire smoke affects health is essential.

Researchers recommended for improved nationwide smoke forecasts despite the fact that the study did not identify the source of smoke in each U.S. region and that part of it originates from Canadian wildfires.

They recommended taking preventive measures to lessen the negative effects on health, including warnings to nearby residents, mask use, time spent outdoors restrictions, and the use of indoor air purifiers.

Better smoke warning systems are required, according to Tarik Benmarhnia, a climate change epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego, who analyzed the results.

“The study’s finding is important,” he stated. “We often underestimate wildfires’ true effects on public health, which are tied to smoke. Additionally, smoke has a very, very long range.

Information about
The potential future of western wildfires was investigated at the University of Washington.

SOURCE: News release, American Geophysical Union, October 4, 2021

Murez, Cara
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