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New Report on Health Impacts from Wildland Fires

Kevin Cromar Assists "Respiratory Impacts of Wildland Fire Smoke"

+ Kevin Cromar


Wildland fires are diminishing air quality on a seasonal and regional basis, raising concerns about respiratory health risks to the public and occupational groups. This American Thoracic Society (ATS) workshop was convened in 2019 to meet the growing health threat of wildland fire smoke. The workshop brought together a multi-disciplinary group of 19 experts, including wildland fire managers, public health officials, epidemiologists, toxicologists, and pediatric and adult pulmonologists. The workshop examined four major topics: (1) the science of wildland fire incidence and fire management, (2) the respiratory and cardiovascular health effects of wildland fire smoke exposure, (3) communication strategies to address these health risks, and (4) actions to address wildland fire health impacts. Through formal presentations followed by group discussion, workshop participants identified top priorities for fire management, research, communication and public policy to address health risks of wildland fires. The workshop concluded that short-term exposure to wildland smoke causes acute respiratory health effects, especially among those with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Research is needed to understand long-term health effects of repeated smoke exposures across fire seasons for children, adults and highly exposed occupational groups (especially firefighters). Other research priorities include fire data collection and modeling, toxicology of different fire fuel sources, and the efficacy of health protective measures to prevent respiratory effects of smoke exposure. The workshop committee recommends a unified Federal response to the growing problem of wildland fires, including investment in fire behavior and smoke air quality modeling, research on the health impacts of smoke, and the development of robust clinical and public health communication tools.

Read the Report

Kevin Cromar, Ph.D., is a program director at the Marron Institute of Urban Management and a Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine and Population Health at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

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