May 22, 2024 7:21 am
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Study: Wildfires Magnify Health Risks for GA Residents

Credit: iStock

Shanteya Hudson

From Georgia all the way north along the East Coast, poor air quality this summer has mostly been a result of wildfires many miles away in Canada, where more than 600 fires are still burning.

One of the latest studies found, once again, that climate change is exacerbating the harmful effects of wildfire, which also increases health burdens. The study estimated that during major wildfire events, the United States and Canada could incur additional health-care costs that range from $1.6 million to more than $6 million.

Nikki Vars McCullough, vice president of 3M’s Personal Safety Division and an expert in respiratory protection, urged people to take the hazy skies seriously because wildfire smoke can be extremely dangerous.

“Wildfire smoke is made up of very, very small particles, and they are contributing to poor air quality across the United States this year,” she said. “Other particles that are in the air include dust and dirt from dry fields and roads, vehicle emissions from cars and trucks.”

According to the report, published in the journal Nature, fine particles from wildfire smoke are disproportionately dangerous compared with other sources and have been linked to higher death rates from heart and respiratory causes.

McCullough suggested that on days with poor air quality, people should spend as much time indoors as possible. When going outside is unavoidable, she said, they should consider wearing an N-95 respirator mask. She also emphasized the importance of paying attention to the air quality inside your home on bad air quality days.

“Avoid certain types of cooking, or vacuuming or burning candles,” she said. “And then you can work to filter the air inside of your home. So, if you have a home HVAC system, you can get a high-efficiency filter and you can run your HVAC system fan continuously.”

The report predicted that densely populated areas will experience the greatest changes in health-care cost due to wildfires and the effects of climate change.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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