Long-term effects of smoke exposure can be difficult to determine

firefighters wildfire smoke

Above: Firefighters arrive at the White Tail Fire in South Dakota, March 8, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Researchers are finding it difficult to conduct research on the long-term effects of exposure to smoke from wildfires. Last year in some areas of the Northern Rockies in the United States and Canada residents suffered through one of the worst seasons of smoke in a while.

Below are excerpts from an article at Pacific Standard. Most of it is about the effects on residents, but it also mentions firefighters.

“Seeley Lake was the worst smoke event we have ever seen, and I think possibly has been seen, at least in the United States and Canada,” [Sarah] Coefield says. “Every single day, the smoke is hazardous. I’d wake up every hour at night, and check the smoke, and then fret about Seeley Lake. What do I say in the morning? ‘It’s terrible. Again.'”

[…]

Then there is the difficulty of securing the financial resources to undertake a long-term study. Even researching the effects of smoke on firefighters—who, with their regular and intense exposures to wildfires, are among the worst affected—can be difficult, says John Balmes, professor of environmental health sciences at the Berkeley School of Public Health.

“Occupational studies of wildland firefighters are a problem because it’s a workforce that tends to turn over a lot,” he says. For one study, he followed a group of firefighters across the fire season to monitor their exposure, but didn’t get the funding needed to follow up on their health the next year—a progression that could have shed light on the long-term effects of smoke.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

3 thoughts on “Long-term effects of smoke exposure can be difficult to determine”

  1. NO FUNDING FOR STUDIES ON SMOKE INHALATION? WHAT? I THOUGHT THAT THE US GOVT .,HAD THE FIRE FIGHTERS BEST INTERESTS ,AT HEART.
    APPARENTLY THE MONEY IS BEING SPENT ON THE POLITICIANS USELESS “PORK BARREL “PROJECTS.

  2. Not sure about the Seeley lake fire. But in 1987 the northern California fire in seiad valley . Our helicopter was smoked in for over 30 days. The crew before us was smoked in too. We could only see 20 to 30 feet at noon. They did some air testing not sure who. They even had tee shirts made about surviving nuclear winter.

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