Exploring the Impact of Forest Fires on Air Quality and Health
At TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track, we prioritize sharing essential information. While there has been a gradual improvement in air quality across the United States and Canada, the persistent threat of wildfires cannot be ignored. The occurrence of wildfires has the potential to release smoke that can drift over the border, posing risks to the health and well-being of both nations.
Today, forest fires are inevitable, and the smoke they produce poses a serious threat to human health. This article explores the symptoms, causes, and treatment options related to the smoke from these fires. It emphasizes the pervasive issue of air pollution caused by various sources such as cars, industries, and human activities, which continues to worsen each day. Despite the pleasant appearance of the outdoor air, stepping outside puts lives at risk, as 91% of the global population breathes polluted air daily, resulting in the death of at least one in ten people from pollution-related diseases.
Air pollution surpasses smoking, AIDS, and war as a greater threat to life expectancy. Startling statistics reveal that in 2020 alone, the United States emitted approximately 68 million tons of air pollutants into the atmosphere, amounting to a staggering economic cost of nearly $3 trillion. The role of climate change in increasing the risk of wildfires and the subsequent air pollution cannot be ignored.
Climate change significantly contributes to the escalating wildfire risk and the accompanying air pollution worldwide. Moreover, air pollution has been found to play a role in the slow spread of diseases like COVID-19. The impact is particularly concerning for children exposed to high levels of pollution, as they may not breathe clean, fresh air until they reach around eight years of age. Additionally, pollution takes a heavy toll on marine life, with over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals falling victim to its detrimental effects each year. Furthermore, people residing in areas with high air pollution face a 20% higher risk of dying from lung cancer.
Startling facts from organizations like Do Something.org reveal that air pollution claims the lives of nearly 7 million people annually, surpassing war and violence by a factor of 15. Historical evidence from Greece suggests that air pollution is at least 2,400 years old, and indoor air pollution can be up to 70 times higher than outdoor air, posing significant dangers to health.
In 2022, the United States is projected to emit approximately 66 million tons of air pollutants into the atmosphere, significantly impacting the health of 9 out of 10 individuals residing in urban environments.
Forest fires can be triggered by various factors, including natural resources, industrial activities, and natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. These fires quickly spread through forests and brush, causing devastating consequences. Floodwater can mix with sewage, dirt, or other hazardous materials, introducing bacteria and chemicals into homes. Similarly, hurricanes bring excessive moisture that encourages mold growth indoors.
Elevated ozone levels caused by industrial factors occur when vehicles, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react to sunlight. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced during hot weather in urban areas, but ozone levels can also reach dangerous levels during earlier months.
Poor air quality can lead to acute and chronic symptoms that can have lifelong effects. Acute symptoms include asthma exacerbation, difficulty breathing, and potential asthma attacks. Other symptoms may include a runny or stuffy nose, cough with green or yellow phlegm, chest congestion, low-grade fever, wheezing, fatigue, and even lower respiratory infections characterized by high fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and more. Prolonged exposure to air pollution can even contribute to the development of dementia, particularly in older women.
Neglecting to protect oneself from poor air quality can result in life-threatening chronic diseases. Conditions such as strokes, lung cancer, obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and cystic fibrosis are among the illnesses that can arise due to prolonged exposure to air pollution.
To mitigate the risks associated with poor air quality, several safety measures should be followed. Wearing masks can create a barrier against inhaling air particles, reducing the potential health impact. Minimizing outdoor activities and staying indoors until air quality improves is advised. Additionally, staying hydrated helps flush the immune system, and using air purifiers can ensure that indoor air remains fresh, clean, and purified. Drinking filtered water also helps prevent the intake of bacteria.
It is important to note that any medication prescribed may have side effects, and while these life-threatening illnesses or diseases may not affect everyone, they can pose a risk to some individuals.
For more information, please refer to the following resources:
- Ground-level ozone basics: https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/ground-level-ozone-basics#:~:text=This%20happens%20when%20pollutants%20emitted,high%20levels%20during%20colder%20months.
- Tips to stay safe from poor air quality days: https://www.ecobud.com.au/our-story/news-blog/healthy-living/10-tips-to-stay-safe-from-poor-air-quality-days#:~:text=Stay%20Hydrated,you%20against%20poor%20air%20quality.
- 5 things you should do when there’s poor air quality: https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/research/2013/02/5-things-you-should-do-when-there-s-poor-air-quality/
Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered as specific medical advice or practices endorsed by TGH Urgent Care. It is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized medical advice. If you are currently experiencing a medical emergency, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. We recommend visiting one of our nearest walk-in clinics, and to streamline your visit, we encourage you to utilize our convenient OnmyWay system, designed to save you time in line.