Wildfire smoke and COVID-19

Preliminary evidence suggests exposure to wildfire smoke may increase susceptibility to COVID-19

Wildfire Smoke And COVID 19

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.
Satellite photo smoke Australia fires
Satellite photo of smoke from fires in New South Wales and Victoria January 4, 2020. The red areas represent heat.

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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. Google+

3 thoughts on “Wildfire smoke and COVID-19”

  1. You think?

    Of course it does. Thus, the constant plea to put all fires out immediately, especially THIS YEAR. This is not a debatable concept.

    Very respectfully,

  2. I have long worried about the ill-effects of breathing smoke from wildfires.I used to complain that “controlled burning” was some how necessary and so the smoke was somehow OK. The smoke exposure was increased from the fire season to 10 months by starting these controlled fires. Or that smoke was added to the already unhealthy smoke levels. This was a very unpopular idea.
    Many fires were left to burn until they got huge in the dried out fuels Nothing but weather changing to snow or rain put them out. Now it appears that fires are being put out as soon as possible. That seems a good thing because the fire conditions are just so altered. Despite trying to manage fires early there are still so many fires after every electric storm. Plenty of fuel reduction going on.
    We may need to ban fires and fire arms on any public lands. That seems to be the frequent cause of these fires.

  3. Weird Smoke also causes Cancer and yet Federal Firefighters are not considered Firefighters and don’t receive the benefits they deserve if they were to get cancer etc…. But COVID!!!!! HOLD THE PHONE PEOPLE

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