COLORADO SPRINGS — Researchers are sounding the alarm on the damaging impact of smoke from wildfires on air quality.
According to a study done by Natural Resources Defense Council, wildfire smoke includes harmful contaminants including fine particulate matter; one of the deadliest air pollutants known to humans. Even one hour of smoke exposure can affect our lungs and hearts.
Wildfire smoke can leads to dangerous health consequences, including premature deaths, emergency room visits, cases of COPD, and other health issues. Toxic air pollutants in wildfire smoke can drift hundreds of miles downwind. Wildfire smoke in the U.S., can be nearly 50 times larger than the area burned directly by fires.
"It's becoming a problem across the country. It doesn't just stay in one place," explained Vijay Limaye, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It doesn't even respect international borders. Canada's fires affect us, so we are all in this together. "
Wildfire smoke is also a major occupational health risk for firefighters and outdoor workers such as farmhands, telephone line technicians, and construction workers.
Scientists say the best thing you can do, especially if you belong to a vulnerable population—such as the elderly, children, and people with lung disease—to take precautions.