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Wildfire Smoke and Health
The frequency and intensity of Canadian wildfires is increasing as a consequence of the changing global climate, as well as long-standing forest management practices (Flannigan et al., 2013). Fires pose a direct threat to lives and properties in some communities, and also cause episodes of extreme smoke pollution that threaten the health of populations over large geographic areas.
- Wildfire smoke is a complex blend of gasses and particles, including heavy metals; smoke exposure has been associated with a wide range of acute health effects, from increased reporting of respiratory and cardiac symptoms through to increased risk of mortality. (Finlay et al., 2012)
- The most recent estimate of premature deaths worldwide due to wildfire smoke was 339,000 annually over the period of 1997 to 2006. (Johnston et al., 2012)
- Some populations are more susceptible to these effects, including: those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease; pregnant women; infants and young children; the elderly; and those of low socioeconomic status. (Reid et al., 2016; Liu, 2015)
- A report published by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) found that the number of fires occurring at the wildland-urban interface is increasing and the damages are likely compounded due to climate change. (CCFM, 2013)
The resources assembled here are intended to assist public health practitioners, decision-makers, and the public by providing guidance regarding public health impacts, community preparedness, risk communication and response to wildfires and wildfire smoke.
- Upcoming: Responding to Wildfire Smoke Events: Role of Public Health, Perceptions and Challenges (March 2018)
This Health Canada-funded project will look at public health preparedness and response to wildfire smoke events in three Canadian jurisdictions, with the aim of understanding practitioners needs and challenges.
Selected External Resources
- Social aspects of wildfire management (Natural Resources Canada, 2016)
This webpage outlines the ways in which the Government of Canada is working with communities and partners to reduce the threat and impact of wildfires, with an emphasis on First Nations communities.
- FireSmart Guidebook for Community Protection (Government of Alberta, 2013)
This manual provides tools for assessing, planning for and mitigating the impacts of Wildfires on Communities, including communication and public education materials, land use planning, and further resources.
- Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials (US EPA, 2016)
This guide is designed to help public health officials prepare for smoke events, take measures to protect the public, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health.
- Critical Review of Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke Exposure (Reid et al., 2016)
This evidence review examines the effects of wildfire smoke on respiratory, cardiovascular, mental, perinatal health, mortality, as well as deficiencies in the knowledge base.
- State of the Air 2016 (BC Lung Association)
This report outlines the effects of climate change on health as a result of deteriorating air quality and summarizes the BC Lung Association’s 13th Annual Air Quality and Health Workshop, including air pollution trends in BC. Page four is a helpful guideline for how to prepare for wildfire smoke.
- Emergency Preparedness Guide for Hazards Associated with Wildfires (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, 2015)
This guide gives workers in the oil and gas sector information on how to recognize, assess and respond appropriately to threats from smoke and wildfires.
- Guidelines for Health Staff in Northern Saskatchewan Communities Preparation for Forest Fires and the Assessment of Health Effects from Forest Fire Smoke (Pacific NorthWest Border Health Alliance, 2012)
This guide is designed to help public health officials in Northern Communities prepare for smoke events, take measures to protect the public, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health, including communication fact sheets.
- FireSmoke Canada (2017)
This webpage provides services and data on air quality and health & safety for emergency management professionals, researchers, and the public by using the BlueSky Canada forecasting system to report hourly concentrations of smoke particles (PM 2.5) from wildfires up to 48hrs in advance.
- BC Air Quality Website (2017)
This webpage gives information about air pollution, how BC measures and monitors air quality, and gives tools to access air quality advisories, air quality data, and the Air Quality health Index.
- Wildfire Smoke: Frequently Asked Questions (WorkSafe BC, 2017)
This factsheet provides employers with information on the health hazards of wildfire smoke and measures that can be taken to minimize the effects on workers.
- BC Health Wildfire Smoke Response Coordination Guidelines (BC CDC, 2017)
The purpose of this advisory document is to describe the powers and legislation that can be applied by decision-makers when taking measures, including evacuation, to minimize the public health impacts of wildfire smoke. It describes the activation, coordination and response to wildfire smoke, and the process for assessing outcomes and making recommendations to protect public health interventions.
- Effectiveness of public health messaging and communication channels during smoke events: A rapid systemic review (Fish et al., 2017)
This systemic review investigates the effectiveness of various communication channels for public health messaging during smoke events and their effectiveness at reaching general and more vulnerable populations.
- Forest fires: A clinician primer (Nsoh et al., 2016)
This article succinctly reviews populations most at risk during fire events, tools for situational awareness (e.g., smoke forecasting and environmental monitoring), and steps that can be taken to protect patients.
- Portable air cleaners should be at the forefront of the public health response to landscape fire smoke (Barn et al., 2016)
This evidence review assesses the usage of portable air cleaners and the level to which the information provided by public health authorities corresponds with recommended usage, advocating for their use in response to smoke from wildfires.
- Guidance for BC Public Health Decision Makers During Wildfire Smoke Events (BC CDC, 2014)
This advisory document provides public health decision makers with current evidence and BC-specific guidance for the assessment of, preparation, and possible interventions for a wildfire smoke event.
- Evidence review: Home and community clean air shelters to protect public health during wildfire smoke events (BC CDC, 2014)
This evidence review outlines the state of knowledge on the use of portable air cleaners, larger scale air conditioning and considerations for the implementation of community and home clean air shelters.
- Evidence Review: Using masks to protect public health during wildfire smoke events (BC CDC, 2014)
This evidence review clarifies types of respiratory protection that can be used by the public, what air toxins they can protect against, and addresses the effectiveness and efficacy of these devices.
Protecting Fire fighters’ Health
- Wildland Fire Fighting Safety and Health (US CDC, 2012)
This website provides information on the health impacts of wildfires on fire fighters, tips on how to prevent and reduce heat stress, cardiac and respiratory hazards, fatigue, and other injuries.
- Fighting with Fire: How bushfire suppression can impact on fire fighters’ health (Aisbett, 2007)
This article provides information for health practitioners on the health impacts of wildfire smoke on firefighters, tips to be aware of when assessing firefighter health, and recommendations for preparing firefighter patients before bushfire season.
- May 2016 Wood Buffalo Wildfire Post-Incident Assessment Report (KPMG, 2017)
This report highlights successful practices and lessons learn by the province of Alberta and its partners regarding the preparedness for and response to the Wood Buffalo fires.
- Alberta Health Services: Wildfire Resources (2017)
This webpage provides resources to the public on mental health supports, health care services, and information about restoring and preparing homes for reoccupation. Alberta Health Services also provides a guide for reopening food establishments following a wildfire.
- After the fire: the mental health consequences of fire disasters (Laugharne, 2011)
This evidence review examines the psychosocial effects of wildfires on responders and community members, as well as highlighting groups most at risk for psychological trauma.
- Longitudinal Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response to Wildfire, Bastrop County, Texas (Kirsch et al., 2016)
This academic article investigated the effectiveness of public health and community response to wildfire smoke immediately and 3.5 years after a 34,064 acre wildfire.
- Health and safety around fire retardants/suppressants (BC CDC, 2017)
This document outlines the health implications of Phos-Chek and Thermo-gel fire retardant/suppressants used in the recent BC wildfires.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.
|Last updated||Oct 16, 2017|