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Wildfire Smoke Gets In Your Lungs

What Are the Health Effects of Wildfires?

Picture of Wildfire Smoke in Southern California

When wildfires rage in California, they tend to be the lead story on news outlets throughout the country. The number of people evacuated and the number of homes destroyed are hard to comprehend. As the fires die down, the television cameras will move to the next story, and the stories from Southern California will be replaced by the next catastrophe.

In the medical world, the fallout from the fires may be exactly that...fallout. Ash and soot are covering thousands of square miles of land, and my expectation is that those people with asthma and emphysema will soon be affected. While California has been the leader in this country in trying to limit secondhand smoke exposure, Mother Nature hasn't read the laws. Smoking is illegal in public buildings, but just going outside may be too dangerous for many.

The small particles of soot and ash from the fires will continue to rain down on the area for many days to come, and depending on atmospheric conditions, the area of pollution will extend well beyond the range of the fires. These particles can act as irritants and trigger lung ailments in those already prone: asthmatics, those with COPD and emphysema, or people with heart disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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