Researchers quantify effects of wildfire smoke on residents

Smoke effects, British Columbia 2003

Researchers in British Columbia took advantage of smoky conditions from wildfires near Kelowna (map) and other areas in southeastern B.C. in 2003 to study the effects of smoke on the residents. The fires that year burned over 67,000 acres, destroyed 238 homes, and forced 33,000 people to evacuate.

The study not only evaluated the particulate data from air quality monitoring stations, but also the human health impacts, especially in urban settings.

Smoke effects, British Columbia 2003
Difference in weekly asthma visits for 2003 versus the average of 2002 and 2004 (when there were few fires in the study area) plotted against the difference in average weekly total PM10 measurements for Kelowna, the largest city in the study area. Bars indicate the weekly sum of 2003 asthma-specific visits minus the averages of the 2002 and 2004 weekly sums of asthma visits. The black line indicates the average weekly TEOM-measured PM10 in 2003 minus the average of weekly measurements in 2002 and 2004. (From the referenced study.)

The researchers found that increases in smoke particulates, PM10, were associated with increased odds of respiratory physician visits and hospital admissions, but not with cardiovascular health outcomes. Residents in Kelowna experienced an increase of 100 micrograms of particulate per cubic meter of air, which resulted in an 80 percent increase in respiratory hospital admissions and a six percent increase in the odds of an asthma-specific physician visit.

Thankfully, the University of British Columbia authors, Sarah B. Henderson, Michael Brauer1, Ying C. MacNab, and Susan M. Kennedy, made the entire paper freely available to the public, honoring the principles of Open Access.

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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.