Respiratory concerns rise as wildfires continue

Jun 21, 2023 | Canadian News, News

As Canadian wildfires continue to ravage the country, concerns are growing over the severe health implications of these devastating disasters. Officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada provided a seasonal update on Tuesday.

Armel Castellan, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist at ECCC, confirms that Canadians have already endured an abnormally hot and dry spring season, and “alarming seasonal forecasts indicate that these unprecedented conditions will persist throughout the country during the summer months.” The forecast paints a grim picture, suggesting a high frequency of wildfires that may exceed the local management capacity.

“The hot conditions experienced this spring are projected to continue, leading to an elevated risk of wildfires,” Castellan said,

“These fires have the potential to surpass local management capabilities, resulting in evacuations, compromised air quality, heat-related health risks, and prolonged drought conditions,” he said.

The health implications of prolonged exposure to wildfire smoke are of particular concern. Sarah Butson from the Canadian Lung Association explains the detrimental effects on the population.

“Wildfire smoke contains a complex mix of pollutants, including the fine particulate matter that can deeply penetrate the lungs,” Butson said.

Butson said that even though there are no special statements the fine particles can still affect your lungs over a long period of time.

“This can worsen respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and may even trigger respiratory emergencies,” she said.

She advises individuals, especially those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, to take precautionary measures such as staying indoors, closing windows, and utilizing air purifiers to minimize exposure.

To tackle the health risks posed by wildfires, authorities are actively working on improving warning systems, enhancing firefighting capabilities, and implementing effective evacuation plans according to a press release by Natural Resources Canada.

While the challenges are daunting, the experts’ insights serve as a call to action. By focusing on comprehensive strategies, and taking care of your lung health.

“Use the air quality index tool, if you have pre-existing lung conditions closely monitor and make sure you wear a mask and get regular checkups by a doctor,” Butson said,

“ As the wildfires worsen, the implications of the smoke are going to get severe over time, try to stay indoors when the air quality index is above 4,” she said.