Smoke

Human Health Effects of Forest Fire Smoke

I recently researched the human health effects of exposure to forest fire smoke for the Santa Fe Forest Coalition (SFFC). My report was included in SFFC comments on a proposed revision of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) plan. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) makes cursory mention of the possible adverse health effects of smoke from prescribed fires on the elderly and other sensitive populations, but basically dismisses it. It certainly fails to analyze these impacts in a thorough way as required by NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).

Some things I learned in doing the research is there is no safe level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), there is evidence to suggest that PM2.5 from burning vegetation is more toxic than that from urban sources, and in 2013, the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classified outdoor air pollution and particulate matter as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). This is not good news considering the fact the U.S. Forest Service is planning to conduct increased regular prescribed burns into perpetuity. The attitude of the SFNF is if you do not like their smoke, move.

Even though it will be a difficult to change their attitude and behavior, I encourage everyone to let the Forest Service know how prescribed fire smoke harms you and/or why you do not want yourself, your children, or pets to be exposed to it, especially since aggressive forest thinning and burning will not accomplish the goal of reducing catastrophic wildfires.  Most evidence indicates these fires are the result climate change, not too many trees.

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