Recently, the American Thoracic Society published a report to support calls for a unified federal response in addressing effects of wildfire smoke exposure.
The Respiratory Impacts of Wildland Fire Smoke report was released In anticipation of a wildfire season largely expected to be among the worst to take place. It calls for further federal investment in wildfire research to include not only on the effects of smoke exposure, but also in forecasting, to allow for the evaluation of interventions, as well as to provide a coordinated and clear strategy for communication strategy as means to protect public health.
The research authors found that despite the known public health impact, many, including physicians, lack appreciation in having awareness of the consequences and health risks of wildfire exposure. According to the report’s lead author Dr. Mary Rice MPH, a pulmonologist who is into studying pollution and its resulting respiratory health effects, wildland fires diffuse complex mixtures of harmful gasses and particles into the atmosphere.
The Call is for a Coordinated Approach Across Federal Agencies
Based on their findings, the American Thoracic Society is calling for a coordinated approach across federal agencies toward the assessment and development of strategies in managing the adverse health effects of wildland fires and the resulting smoke.
Dr. Rice explained that when wildfire smoke is inhaled, the potential health effects to the heart and lungs are in terms of frequent asthma attacks and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) that cause breathing-related problems due to airflow blockage. Such breathing disorders could result in higher mortality during wildfire smoke events.
Dan Costa, a Doctor of Science (ScD), and co-author of the report added that wildfire air pollution crosses borders and economic jurisdictions, which makes it important for the federal government to fill the knowledge gap by way of dedicated research. Federal research support should include not only assessments of toxicity levels but also interventions and development of models for fire management.