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Inhaling smoke from wildfires in Canada was on the level of indoor second-hand smoke

  • Scott LaMar
Haze hangs over Harrisburg as smoke from Canadian wildfires filtered into Pennsylvania on June 8, 2023. The smoke degraded air quality across Pennsylvania and other states in the northeast. Jeremy Long - WITF News

Haze hangs over Harrisburg as smoke from Canadian wildfires filtered into Pennsylvania on June 8, 2023. The smoke degraded air quality across Pennsylvania and other states in the northeast. Jeremy Long - WITF News

Airdate: July 31st, 2023

 

As of Monday morning, nearly five thousand wildfires have burned 30.4 million acres in Canada since the beginning of 2023.

Smoke from those wildfires has drifted to the eastern United States, including here in Central Pennsylvania and resulted in poor and unhealthy air quality days in June and July.

In fact, researchers at Rutgers University found the smoke was at levels not seen since smoking was banned indoors 15 years ago.

José Cedeño Laurent, Assistant Professor, Rutgers School of Public Health, Director, Rutgers CARE Lab, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute said on The Spark Monday that at the height of the smoky conditions in early June, the small particle pollution was well above what’s healthy, For a 24 hour period, you have to be below 35 micrograms per cubic meter. So this is the amount of particulates of a certain size that are present in the air. What we measured that day at the peak of the event on June 7th was around 330. So almost ten times that amount…300 micrograms per cubic meter number. So those were similar concentrations of what you would experience in one of those bars” (before indoor smoke bans).

Professor Laurent was asked what health conditions second-hand smoke contributed to and the wildfire smoke could as well,”These concentrations were related to a respiratory disease, even like an acute exposure, would generate some inflammation in your upper airways for more susceptible populations. They could trigger an attack. And on the long run, you could see inflammation in the entire body. So it was not only the lungs. It could be cardiovascular disease. Later on, we found diabetes and other chronic diseases were exacerbated by these levels of air pollution.

Laurent indicated climate change could result in more poor quality days and impact health — something that isn’t discussed as often as the extreme weather events or changes to the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

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