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Climate Change, Wildfires, Smoke, And Your Health

by BreatheEZ EZ 28 Jul 2022

For decades scientists have warned that our reliance on fossil fuels would create harmful emissions that would have a devastating effect on the climate. As nations around the world ignore these warnings and continue producing higher pollution rates, unprecedented changes are taking place in every corner of the globe.

For regions prone to wildfires, the daily fear is a pressing reminder of the damage climate change produces. The average wildfire season is now three and half months longer than it was only decades ago, with the number of large annual fires tripling, burning twice as many acres than in the past. As the earth warms, severe heat spurs droughts, which fuel devastating wildfires, conditions linked directly to climate change. Without intervention, the severity of these conditions will continue to worsen, creating more wildfires in the years to come.

How Climate Change Affects Wildfires

Wildfires have multiple causes, from human activities like burning campfires and improper disposal of lit cigarettes to natural phenomena like lightning strikes. Although these causes are mainly responsible for lighting the fires, hotter weather creates drier conditions, increasing the chances for small fires to burn out of control. In 2021 alone, 58,985 wildfires burned 7.4 million acres, destroying 5,972 structures, 60% of which were residences. With so much devastation, it's clear to see climate change is a problem, but how does it directly impact the increase in these destructive fires?

 As temperatures rise, moisture evaporates from the ground, causing the soil to dry out, making the surrounding vegetation more flammable. Simultaneously, winter snowpacks are melting around a month earlier than usual, meaning forests stay drier for more extended periods. Additionally, meteorological patterns have shifted, driving much-needed rain away from regions in desperate need of moisture, which scientists have labeled a climate change phenomenon created by humans.

When the process is laid out, it's easy to see the domino effect that causes climate change to impact our planet.

How Wildfire Smoke Affects Your Health

The devastation caused by wildfires doesn't stop at burning millions of acres of land and thousands of structures; they bring a silent killer with them, smoke. Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of fine particles and gases produced when organic materials burn. These particles can then penetrate deep into the lungs, filling them with toxic chemicals and materials that cause a wide range of health problems.

Although everyone's sensitivity to wildfire smoke differs, it causes harm to everyone who breathes it in, even for only a short amount of time. Certain groups of people are more susceptible to the damaging effects of wildfire smoke, making paying close attention to air quality vital if there is a fire within twenty miles of your vicinity.

People With Diabetes

Those with diabetes are at an increased risk of having underlying cardiovascular issues, which are often triggered by smoke inhalation. Even if they are unaware of current cardiovascular problems, those with diabetes should avoid breathing wildfire smoke.

People With Lung Or Heart Disease

Wildfire smoke is made up of gases like carbon monoxide and fine particles that are small enough to enter the bloodstream through the lungs. Once this happens, it can result in blood clots, inflammation, and heart attacks. Those with pre-existing lung or heart conditions are at an increased risk for severe reactions from smoke inhalations leading to angina, asthma, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and emphysema.

Older Adults

Older adults may be more sensitive to wildfire smoke since their bodies are unable to cleanse it from their systems effectively. Additionally, they are more likely to suffer from lung or heart disease than their younger counterparts.

Children And Teenagers

Children and teens are at an increased risk for adverse side effects resulting from wildfire smoke. Their respiratory systems are not yet fully developed, causing them to breathe more air per pound of their body weight compared to adults. They are also more likely to spend more extended periods outdoors and suffer from asthma.

Pregnant Women

Pregnant women are uniquely susceptible to wildfire smoke, developing conditions unlike the other groups listed. A study performed on the effects of wildfires on pregnant women showed they may have an increased rate of depression and stress, potentially leading to poor birth outcomes like low birth rate, preterm birth, and fetal growth retardation. Additionally, smoke inhalation in pregnant women can cause pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, which can lead to pre-eclampsia. If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can be fatal.

How You Can Tell If Wildfire Smoke Is Affecting You

Being aware of the symptoms associated with smoke inhalation can give you the opportunity to remove yourself from the vicinity and seek medical treatment if necessary. Although there are common symptoms everyone may experience, there are also distinct warning signs to be aware of for specific conditions. Note* You may experience all or none of the symptoms below. Consult your doctor to discuss warning signs you should be mindful of.

Common Symptoms Affecting Everyone

Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, burning eyes, difficulty breathing, phlegm, and a runny nose.

Symptoms For Those With Heart Disease

Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue.

Symptoms For Those With Lung Disease

Shallow breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest discomfort, and increased phlegm.

How To Protect Yourself From Wildfire Smoke

Protecting yourself from the dangers of wildfire smoke is vital for maintaining your health. The best way to ensure you and your family are protected is with a quality air purifier. BreatheEZ offers premium smoke air purifiers to ensure the air your family breaths is clean and safe. We have a wide range of smoke air purifiers with carbon, HEPA, and tar barrier pre-filters with cutting-edge technology to effectively filter and remove smoke toxins from the air. Our selection of wildfire / smoke air purifiers includes:

Don't put your and your family's health at risk; turn to BreatheEZ to find the perfect smoke air purifier that fits your lifestyle and see how our products can help you breathe easier.

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