Measuring the consequence of forest fires on public health

Jan 27, 2013

Pollution from forest fires is impacting the health of people with asthma and other chronic obstructive lung diseases, finds a study in Biomed Central's open access journal Environmental Health. This study uses data from pharmacies and dispensaries to measure the increase in drugs needed to alleviate symptoms associated with pollution.

burn nearly 1000 km2 of trees in British Columbia every year. The Ministry of Environment keeps a close watch on levels of particulate matter in the air caused by these fires but it is harder to measure the impact of this pollution on the of people unless they are admitted to hospital.

Researchers from British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and University of British Columbia used dispensary records to find out if forest fires caused an increase in use of short acting beta agonist (SABA) such as salbutamol. Salbutamol sulphate is typically used as an inhaler to relive symptoms of asthma, (COPD) and other obstructive lung diseases.

What they found was that pollution due to forest fires increased the need for salbutamol for up to 4 days after the fire – even a relatively small increase in smoke (10µg/m3 increase in PM2.5) was associated with a 6% increase in salbutamol dispensations.

Dr Catherine Elliott, who led this study commented, "Our study shows that forest fires and pollution are impacting the health of people with chronic lung diseases. It also shows that it is possible to measure public health by monitoring dispensary databases, and that dispensary data shows effects in small populations, that have not been found in studies on other such as visits to physicians' offices. This information is often routinely collected, and available for the entire population, consequently it is possible to perform more meaningful analysis."

Explore further: Food shortages could be most critical world issue by mid-century

More information: Time series analysis of fine particulate matter and asthma reliever dispensations in populations affected by forest fires, Catherine T Elliott, Sarah B Henderson and Victoria Wan, Environmental Health (in press)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tudorza pressair approved for COPD

Jul 24, 2012

(HealthDay) -- The Tudorza Pressair (aclidinium bromide) inhaler has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat narrowing of the lung airways associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ...

Singapore chokes on smoke from Indonesia

Sep 07, 2012

Singapore registered its worst level of air pollution for the year on Friday as smoke from forest fires in Indonesia blew over the city-state, triggering a health warning.

Daily forecasts track smoke from southern fires

May 30, 2007

At the request of the Georgia State Department of Health, scientists with the Southern Research Station Smoke Management Team located at the Center for Forest Disturbance Science in Athens, GA, are producing daily smoke forecasts ...

Recommended for you

New research on Earth's carbon budget

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

20 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

New research on Earth's carbon budget

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...