Wildfires and Lung Health: What You Should Know
Every year, fire season in BC seems to be getting longer and more extreme, causing some of the worst air quality in British Columbia, and causing health problems for those with and without chronic lung disease.
Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of different air pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and trace amounts of heavy metals. The mixture can change depending on the fuels (types of trees, brush, grasses, or building materials) and the atmospheric conditions. Although wildfire smoke is generated outdoors, it can travel indoors through windows, doors, vents, and other openings.
There are hundreds of forms of lung disease that can be caused by many things including smoking, poor air quality, viruses, genetics and toxins. The good news is many lung diseases may be prevented.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke or use tobacco, quit; quitting is the most important thing you can do to keep your lungs healthy and prevent disease. Smoking damages your lungs and increases your risk for a number of diseases including lung cancer and COPD. It's never too late to quit. Learn more about how to quit.
- Teach your children about the dangers of smoking and be a role model by not smoking or by quitting now.
- Avoid second-hand smoke. Breathing the smoke from cigarettes and pipes increases your risk for the same diseases that affect people who smoke. Don't allow smoking in your home, in the car, or at work.
- Fight germs by washing your hands properly and covering your coughs and sneezes- this will help you prevent infectious lung diseases like the flu, colds, and others.
- Do your part to control outdoor air pollution and keep the air we breathe clean. For example, avoid burning waste and wood.
- Test Your Home for Radon. Radon gas identified as second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking
- Get moving! Regular physical exercise is good for your whole body and especially your lungs. Exercise makes your lungs stronger and better at giving your body the oxygen it needs. It also helps to boost your body fight germs that could make you sick.
- If you have a chronic lung disease like asthma or COPD, work with your doctor to manage your symptoms and avoid flare-ups.
- Pay attention to lung health at work. Avoid breathing in toxic fumes from chemical, solvents and paints. Wear protective masks when you work with chemical and report unsafe working conditions. Go to lung screening and other health programs offered at work.