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Intense, frequent wildfires will take increasing toll on health, studies say

Last Updated Jun 30, 2019 at 9:37 am PDT

FILE PHOTO: Haze covers parts of Metro Vancouver. (Photo taken July 6th, 2015) (Twitter via @bethyscotty)
Summary

Scientists from NASA are refining satellite imagery to predict where smoke will travel and how intense it will be

Chronic exposure to wildfire smoke can have long-term health effects for people with existing respiratory problems

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – With the 2019 wildfire season already heating up, authorities are trying to find better ways to alert the public when smoke blankets cities and towns.

Epidemiologist James Crook says it’s a bigger problem than he first thought.

“Small particles of all kinds can cause everything from coughing and throat irritation to heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, certain kinds of cancers,” he says. “We know that small particles can also affect babies in the womb.”

Scientists from NASA are refining satellite imagery to predict where smoke will travel and how intense it will be. Local authorities are using those forecasts to improve real-time alerts encouraging people to stay indoors when conditions turn unhealthy.

Jeffery Pierce at Colorado State University predicts the health impact will get worse this century due to more intense wildfires.

“By the end of the century, we predict in our study that that would double the number of deaths attributed to smoke to the annual order of several tens of thousands, as opposed to ten or 20,000,” he says.

Chronic exposure to wildfire smoke can have long-term health effects, especially for people with existing respiratory problems.

In 2018, Calgary had 322 hours of smoke, the most on record.