Wildfire smoke produces immediate harmful effects among British Columbians with respiratory or cardiovascular issues, poses a clear danger to diabetics, and could further exacerbate viral infections like COVID-19, according to new research recently published in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study concludes that “a jump in ambulance dispatches related to respiratory or cardiovascular conditions occurs within one hour of exposure to smoke,” reports the Canadian Press.
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Drawing on data collected during five consecutive fire seasons in B.C., researchers at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health found that dispatches related to diabetic conditions increased within 48 hours of exposure to wildfire smoke, which is made particularly dangerous by its high levels of fine particulates.
PhD student and lead author Jiayun Angela Yao urged rapid action by public health authorities to limit smoke exposure, noting a dangerous conjunction between an approaching wildfire season and the ongoing threat of the pandemic, since fine particulate exposure likely exacerbates coronavirus symptoms.
“Anyone with pre-existing heart and lung disease and diabetes is especially vulnerable, and should consider purchasing air cleaners and ensuring that they have adequate supplies of medication at home,” Yao said in a release.