The impact of smoke caused by Canadian wildfires raises concern for wildfire–related fine particles.
The unforgettable events of much of the Northeast and Midwest disappearing in clouds of orangey yellow smoke could have potentially cause long-term health impacts, according to researchers at Monash University. The study confirmed that North America experienced some of the worst air quality in decades due to the ongoing wildfires in Canada.
According to the study findings, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, investigators evaluated the impacts of long-term exposure and its associated fine particles (PM2.5). In 11 years, the university will follow up to assess the wildfire–related symptoms and mortality.
“The study found that a 10 μg/m3 increase of wildfire related PM2.5 exposure was associated with a 0.4% higher risk of all-cause and nonaccidental mortality, and a 0.5% increase in risk of dying from neoplasmsm” the authors wrote in a press release. “On June 8, , at the peak of the wildfire pollution, levels of PM2.5 reached 460 μg/m3.”
PM2.5 is defined as an air pollutant that becomes a concern for individuals’ health when the air levels are high.
However, the study conducted by Monash University did not find any significant associations between wildfire related PM2.5 exposure and mortality involving cardiovascular, respiratory and mental distress. However, the researchers said in other cases, the health impacts of wildfire related PM2.5 exposure has an increased risk for each of the causes. Notably, the research only had a short-term focus.
Lead researcher, Associate Professor Shanshan Li, PhD, from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, evaluated the study findings.
“We aimed to estimate the long-term impacts of wildfire related PM2.5 exposure on mortality in adults using a large-scale national cohort database from the UK Biobank,” Li said in the press release. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first population-based prospective cohort study to quantify the associations between long-term exposure to wildfire-related PM2.5 and mortality.”
The study involved 492,394 individuals who were enrolled between 2004 and 2010. Their health records were linked with biological samples and surveys regarding their lifestyle. The researchers used data from their study to evaluate the primary cause of death, leading them to believe it was caused by wildfire related PM2.5. These individuals died 1 to 5 years after exposure due to this air pollutant.
The findings suggest that wildfire related PM2.5 exposure has long lasting impacts on all-causes, including nonaccidental and neoplasm mortality. However, Li emphasized that more research needs to be conducted to provide more evidence on the issue.
World’s biggest study of wildfire smoke impact reveals alarming long-term health impacts. News release. Eurek Alert. June 21, 2023. Accessed June 28, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/993346.