Health Effects of Wildland Fire Smoke: Insight from Public Health Science Studies

TitleHealth Effects of Wildland Fire Smoke: Insight from Public Health Science Studies
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsDiaz, JM
Series TitleSouthern Fire Exchange Fact Sheet
Document NumberSFE Fact Sheet 2012-8
InstitutionSouthern Fire Exchange

Due to the composition and dispersion of wildland fire smoke, particulate matter is the principal pollutant of public health concern. Effects will vary based on the source of smoke but predominantly impact local communities in the same way. Studies of the effects of PM from non-fire sources show that long-term exposure can reduce lung function and cause the development of chronic bronchitis. Short-term exposure (hours or days), typical of wildland fire events, can aggravate lung disease, leading to asthma attacks and acute bronchitis. These effects can also increase the susceptibility to respiratory infections. Healthy children and adults may not suffer serious effects from short-term exposures, although temporary minor irritation may occur when particulate matter levels are elevated. Short-term exposure effects on cardiovascular health outcomes are more variable and may be related to previous di-agnoses of heart disease. Pre-mature mortality cannot be ruled out as a possible health outcome, but in a study evalu-ating a population of over two million people, there was no significant correlation between such mortality and in-creased smoke exposure.