Wildfire Smoke Poses
Significant Health Threat

Unusually dry conditions in the western United States have significantly increased the potential for wildfires, such as the recent Henry’s Creek Fire in Idaho, where thick smoke blanketed the eastern foothills near Idaho Falls.

The fire quickly spread to more than 43,000 acres and became Bonneville County’s largest wildfire of the season. Aerial firefighting crews had some difficulty making retardant and water drops due to high winds and low visibility due to the heavy smoke.

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The Danger of Wildfire Smoke

According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), even if you and your property are not in direct danger from the flames, wildfire smoke can still pose a significant health threat.

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials, but it is the particulate matter that represents the principal public health threat from exposure to wildfire smoke. “Particulate matter” is a generic term for particles suspended in the air, typically as a mixture of both solid particles and liquid droplets.

The size of particles affects their potential to cause health problems. Particles larger than 10 micrometers (by comparison, a human hair is about 60 micrometers) do not usually reach the lungs, but can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. It’s the smaller particles of 10 micrometers or less that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, seriously affecting the lungs and the heart.

At Greatest Risk

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the following groups are at the greatest risk from wildfire smoke:

Protect Yourself

If you reside in a wildfire-prone area, there are several measures you can take to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of wildfire smoke:

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Featured Image: U.S. Air Force Photo, Public Domain

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Centers for Disease Control