The U.S. Forest Service has published a three-page fact sheet with information about the impacts of wildfire smoke during the COVID-19 pandemic. It covers the effects of smoke during the pandemic, who is most at risk, symptoms, masks and face coverings, and how to minimize potential health effects from wildfire smoke. The document has useful information and many links to additional materials.
Here are some excerpts:
- The COVID-19 pandemic is overlapping with the occurrence of wildfires in the United States.
- Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of air pollutants that are harmful to human health.
- Exposure to air pollutants in wildfire smoke can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function, and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, likely including COVID-19.
- Recent scientific publications (Conticini et al., 2020 & Travaglio et al., 2020) suggest that air pollutant exposure worsens COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes.
- Those with or recovering from COVID-19 may be at increased risk of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke due to compromised heart and lung function caused by the disease.
- Although N95 respirators provide protection from wildfire smoke, they might be in short supply as frontline healthcare workers use them during the pandemic.
- Cloth face coverings that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 offer little protection against harmful air pollutants in wildfire smoke because these coverings do not capture most small particles in smoke.