Smoke From Wildfires Raising Health Concerns in Southern California
Smoke inhalation from California's wildfires is causing a spike in respiratory illnesses, but health experts maintain that the health problems are unlikely to lead to higher mortality rates, USA Today reports.
Researchers cited studies of previous wildfires in California and near Denver that found that residents experienced increases in asthma and other illnesses but that inhaling smoke did not increase the mortality rates over the short-term (Sternberg, USA Today, 10/25).
Meanwhile, public health officials and medical providers are recommending that elderly residents and people with respiratory problems stay indoors to limit the amount of smoke inhalation.
Health experts contend that particulate matter is the most dangerous byproduct of wildfires because it is invisible to the naked eye and can worsen symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and emphysema (Chang, AP/Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News, 10/24).
The effect of breathing the particles is not immediate, but several hospitals in San Diego County already have reported an increase in patients with respiratory symptoms.
Smita Desai, pulmonary and critical-care specialist at UC-San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, said cellular research of particulate matter has found a "tiny risk of increased cancer risk" but noted that further research is needed to better determine the long-term consequences (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/25).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Wednesday included a discussion with NPR correspondent Carrie Kahn about conditions for nursing home residents evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The segment also includes comments from a nursing home resident and a volunteer (Norris, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/24).
Audio of the segment and expanded NPR coverage are available online.