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Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke on Firefighters

The unhealthy or hazardous air quality is concerning for many. But while most of us wait for the wind to clear the air, firefighters are deployed again and again to the smokiest areas. And it could be having a real health impact.

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 9:06 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- There are 5,400 firefighters working on the wildfires in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Siskiyou Counties as of July 24, 2018.  As they make progress, there is hope the air quality in southern Oregon will improve.   But as those crews are eventually released from the local incidents, they often move to another wildfire - in an area that's just as smoky.  Summer after summer of fighting wildfires brings up concerns about the heath impacts of long-term exposure to wildfire smoke.  

There is actually limited research on the long-term health effects of wildfire smoke exposure.  One study by Timothy E. Reinhardt and Roger D. Ottmar in 2004  broke down the elements within wildland smoke that cause problems.   They concluded that wildland firefighters can have an increased risk of death from lung cancer and heart disease. 

Another study done in 2017 by Firescience.gov and the Joint Fire Science Program basically confirms that elements with the wildland fire smoke can cause problems.  Specifically, carbon monoxide is a concern.  When you're exposed to it, it reduces how much oxygen your blood can carry.  They conclude that long-term, continuous exposure can really add up.  

CLICK HERE to read the entire study about firefighter health risks and concerns. 

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