One month after hundreds of wildfires began emitting toxic fumes on the West Coast, doctors are looking at the worrying health effects of air pollution.
At Stanford Healthcare System in Northern California, hospital admissions have increased by 12% in recent weeks, including a 43% increase in cerebrovascular conditions such as stroke. In Oregon, health officials said one in 10 people in the emergency room had an asthma-like condition caused by the smoke. And in San Francisco, doctors had to close their clinics to treat patients with Covid-19 because the air was so unhealthy that just visiting them could make patients sicker.
The growing body of scientific evidence paints a grim picture of the effects of wildfire smoke on the human body. The experts told the patron Earlier this month, smoke could have an almost immediate effect on people’s health, leading to asthma, heart attacks, kidney problems and even mental health issues.
Now, as the West Coast recognizes unprecedented hazardous air stress, scientists and health experts are becoming more concerned about the immediate and long-term consequences of continued exposure to harmful pollutants.
In the Bay Area, the fire was extinguished. Despite vehicles approaching the blaze that began with lightning strikes in August, smoking conditions persisted, the sky was turned orange and people were kept in their homes.
“We are on the 30th consecutive day of our ‘spare the air’ warnings,” said Christina Chu of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday. “It’s an all-time record,” he said; The last longest days were 14 days.
Health officials in California say patients with pre-existing lung or heart conditions are at risk of hospitalization or premature death a month after the wildfire erupted in orange-brown air filled with dangerous small particles.
The research director of Stanford’s Sean Ann Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, Dr. “We now have a month of serious smoking and levels are very high,” said Marie Prunicki.
At Stanford’s health centers, doctors told the Guardian that they had seen an increase in hospital admissions as well as special conditions.
Doctoral researchers at Stanford’s Asthma Clinic are following an increase in hospital admissions. In the first two weeks after the air pollution in the Bay Area of Smoke Pollution warmed, he calculated that more than 500 people had been admitted to Stanford hospitals than expected – two weeks after the fire broke out. 12% more than before. After three weeks of bad weather, he was able to detect a 14% increase in hospital admissions for heart patients, an 18% increase in kidney conditions and a 17% increase in asthma hospital admissions.
“Smoke and wildfires are on the rise,” he said, adding that California’s fire season has just begun. “I hope it grows even more.”
The most worrying finding was a 43% increase in stroke and other cerebrovascular hospitals, which may be related to pollution-related inflammation, the researchers said.
Research also shows a 15% increase in hospital admissions for substance abuse disorders and a small increase in admissions to other mental health hospitals.
“People were already dealing with the stress of Kovid-19,” said Pruniki. “And I’ve read that alcohol consumption has increased. This can only be a tipping point. “
“Researchers are still trying to understand the many harmful effects that smoke, known as particulate matter 2.5, has on the body,” said Prunicki.
“Good particles [in the smoke] Go to the bottom of your lungs, then cross the bloodstream and go anywhere in your body, “said Prunicki, who co-authored a previous study showing that healthy teenagers also go wild. They see an increase in inflammation in their bloodstream during exposure to smoke from fires.
“I don’t know if we got it at the cellular level, but we do see an imbalance and we know that pollution spreads all over your body. Is bringing about change. ”
Scientists are still working to understand the long-term effects of wildfire smoke exposure, but studies of firefighters have shown that they face a higher rate of cancer than the general population, although the average Despite being healthier than the person.
In OregonAccording to Gabriella Goldfarb, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force, residents were facing such severe air pollution that air quality index readings were “literally off the chart.” Oregon The Health Authority is monitoring the increase in people seeking emergency treatment for asthma symptoms. He said that although an air quality index above 300 is considered “dangerous”, many communities affected by forest fires near the suburbs of Salem and Portland have experienced more than 500 readings.
Goldfarb says the health authority has spent years studying the health risks of wildfires, which have been exacerbated by the weather crisis. Its recommendations include proposals to distribute air purifiers to low-income families and tenants. But this year, the law was halted after the Oregon Assembly was quickly dissolved due to the epidemic. Now, she said, it’s hard for people to recommend safer options, other than staying at home – and people facing evacuation don’t have that option.
“Traditionally, people could go to their public library or local shopping center to avoid the smoke. But they are not available this year because of Covid, ”he said.
Dr. Nita Thakur, a pulmonologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who heads the clinic at Sean and the clinic at San Francisco General Hospital for the treatment of Kovid-19 patients, said that people concerned about the risks of smoke pollution Has introduced a Catch-22 for Of coronavirus.
He said one of his lung patients called the hospital complaining of respiratory problems and was told to come to the emergency room immediately. But the patient, an elderly man, waited for fear of exposure to the coronavirus. Two days later, the patient’s lung problems became so severe that he was brought in by ambulance and rushed to the ICU, he said.
Thakur said that despite the patient recovering from the epidemic, care was being delayed due to fear of the epidemic.
“We can see more in this, who have had to cancel recent clinics for people recovering from colic and asthma because of poor air quality,” Thakur said. “It’s very difficult to try to navigate these two health crises and tell people what to do.”
He said low-income low-income residents of Niti pose a health risk due to poor quality housing.
“I can go in and get some fresh air,” he said. “But when you live in a poor house, bad air from outside can come in.”
On Thursday, air quality experts predicted that West Coast residents would finally get a break as sea breezes blow up a cloud of sea smoke and spread all over the east coast.
Still, “we don’t feel like we’re ready for the fire season yet,” Goldfarb said. He predicted that rainstorms could cause lightning and more fires in Oregon; California air quality officials note that the state may not see rain in November and that smoke pollution may return earlier this week.
“If there are people who need to leave home and get some fresh air, we recommend that they do so now,” said Chu of the Bay Area Air Quality District. “It’s a new thing we’re getting used to.”