Friday, 11 October 2019 19:01

Health risks from wildfire smoke

As thousands of acres burn in Southern California, those residents lucky enough to escape the flames worry what consequences could result in inhaling the smoke.

What is in wildfire smoke?

According to the EPA, smoke emanating from forest and community fires may include any of the following:

  • Carbon monoxide, which competes with oxygen in the blood
  • Carbon dioxide, a respiratory byproduct
  • Wood particles
  • Formaldehyde
  • Acrolein – used as a pesticide
  • Benzene
  • Plastics, and those byproducts after incineration
  • and thousands of different respiratory irritants.

According to the EPA,

Smoke is composed primarily of carbon dioxide, water vapor,
carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other
organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and several
thousand other compounds. The actual composition of smoke
depends on the fuel type, the temperature of the fire, and the
wind conditions. Different types of wood and vegetation are
composed of varying amounts of cellulose, lignin, tannins and
other polyphenolics, oils, fats, resins, waxes and starches, which
produce different compounds when burned.

What symptoms may individuals experience?

Some may have no idea they are breathing in harmful compounds that could affect their lungs and heart.  However, many may experience:

  • Cough
  • Wheeze
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Chest Pain
  • Mucous Production
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Racing Heart (palpitations)
  • Exacerbation of their lung disease including COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis
  • Exacerbation of heart conditions such as angina, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Increased susceptibility to new lung infections as well as flu

What are PM2.5s?

PM2.5 are particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that are present in pollution and wildfire smoke that can penetrate deeply into the lung linings.  Larger, coarse particles 10 micrometers in diameter are called PM10.  Both impair lung function as they inflame the lungs and interfere with the work of alveoli that need to oxygenate the blood.  Moreover the small particles can use this pathway to enter the blood stream. Although the direct health impacts of the fine particulate matter is not clearly defined it is believed that increased PM2.5 levels increase the risk of lung and heart disease as discussed above.

lungs_alveoli-57ffa7fe3df78cbc284e162b

LUNGS AND ALVEOLI (IMAGE FROM THOUGHTCO.)

Symptoms may begin at levels greater than 55 µg/m.

Which individuals are the most at risk?

  • Infants and Children
  • Elderly individuals
  • Those with chronic lung disease, including asthma and emphysema
  • Those at risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Those with diabetes
  • Smokers
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with chronic allergies
  • Pets 

How can residents protect themselves?

Avoiding the area of wildfires is paramount.  Additionally, the following may be considered:

  • Avoid outdoors until air quality reports improve.  Do not rely on how “clear” the air looks.
  • Take heed of wind and air quality advisories.
  • Recirculate the air in your home and car.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • Consult with your medical provider to monitor blood pressure, heart rhythm, lung function and refill any medications you may need BEFORE you feel symptoms.
  • Be wary of facemasks sold as PM2.5 safe as many do not protect against the very small particles. Respirator masks labelled N95 or N100 may provide SOME protection against particulates but not against the toxic fumes such as formaldehyde and acrolein.

---- 

Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

In the last year there have been more than 74,000 fires in Brazil which is approx. 80% more fires than the previous year. Eighty percent! Now, it’s true that Brazil is a large place and fires occur. Fair enough. What’s particularly out of the ordinary is that more than 50% of those fires are happening in the Amazon Rainforest.  Which is bad. Obviously, the rainforest is of huge import to local inhabitants but also is of significant import to the world as a leading supplier of fish, meat, root vegetables and fruit. And, it’s true that the rainforest does supply oxygen into the atmosphere but it’s not quite the “20% of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon,” as many recent new sites and celebrities claim. I’ll let National Geographic explain more about that in their recent, “Why the Amazon doesn’t really produce 20% of the world’s oxygen: Of the many important reasons to worry about the thousands of fires raging in the world’s largest rainforest, oxygen supply is not one of them.” 

So … why so many fires this year? 

Global warming perhaps, but it does seem that a lot of them are man made. “Slash and burn” deforestation, which is the practice of cutting down forests, drying the area out and then setting the area on fire in order to make room for … other things (but usually pastures for cattle as Brazil is one of, if not THE top exporter of beef) - is the main reason for the fires. And, as anyone with common sense and reason can tell you - sometimes even “controlled fires” get out of control. Hence the mess the Amazon is currently in. 

While it’s true that wildfires happen every year, this year there have been SO many wildfires in the Amazon that the G-7 even offered to assist. The G-7 being the Group of Seven, which is the international intergovernmental economic organization consisting of the seven largest IMF-described advanced economies in the world: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

So, the G-7 has the resources to assist but, in a really dumb plot twist, Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, said he would only accept aid from the G-7 -  if the President of France, Emmanuel Macron apologized to him. 

“Wait. What? Apologize to him? For what?” - Was my first thought. 

Well, I guess there was some social media stupidity that happened and fragile male egos were bruised. You see, on the public Facebook page of President Bolsonaro, a supporter posted a meme comparing the wives of the two men implying that the President of France was jealous that President Bolsonaro’s wife was, basically - younger and hotter, and then claimed Macron (of France) was jealous. 

BUT THEN - the Bolsonaro account responded to the post with, “Hah! Don’t humiliate the guy!”  

Which led President Macron (of France) to respond with: 

"He had extremely disrespectful comments towards my wife. What can I tell you? It's sad. It's sad for him and for Brazilians. I think that Brazilian women are probably ashamed to read that their president has done that. I think that Brazilians, a great people, are a bit ashamed of this behavior. As I have a lot of friendship and respect for the Brazilian people, I hope that they will quickly have a president who is up to the job."

Well, to be honest - that’s a pretty fair response but … as I previously mentioned - it sounds like Brazil’s President had his fragile male ego wounded which led him to turn down G-7 aid to help his burning rainforest unless the President of France apologized!

Sigh.

Do you ever just kind of wish that, I don’t know … adults were in charge? 

Well, guess what? There are clearly adults advising the President of Brazil because they convinced him to change his mind - Brazil WILL accept G-7 aid to combat the fires which amounts to $20 million in aid and will not do so on the condition of the President of France apologizing. 

This is not the first time Macron and Bolsonaro have clashed and it probably won’t be the last, but at least this time, the good guys one. The "good guys" being, “whomever assists with the Amazon wildfires.”  Let’s hope the good guys can now cut those fires down.

Published in World

 It’s the kickoff for hurricane season and forecasters are predicting as many as 14 named storms with anywhere from 3 to 6 of these storms growing into major hurricanes. Here on the Gulf Coast, we certainly perk up when this time of year rolls around.  For years, a good story in south Louisiana went like this:

 “I’m a Catholic, so I certainly know a good bit about suffering,” she would say.

“Yeah, I’m a Louisiana homeowner, he answered.

“Oh, so you understand.”

Louisiana homeowners know a good bit about suffering, particularly when it comes to being stuck with the highest property insurance rates in the nation. The Clark Research Group determined that Louisiana has some of the highest insurance costs, coming in at an average of more than $6000.00.  No other state in the South comes close. If you live in industrialized New Jersey, the cost is $1,318.00, a drop of some $300.00 in the past 10 years.  California, with wildfires and massive rain caused mudslides, pays an average of $1,988.00.

But that’s not the whole story. Congress merely put its finger in the flood insurance dike with legislation that supposedly capped the skyrocketing rates of property owners in flood prone areas. But what our minions in Washington didn’t tell us is that the rates will continue to climb dramatically in the years to come. The legislation is just a quick fix to hoodwink voters in order to get through the next election cycle.

Because of the devastating hurricanes that seem to hit the gulf coast at least once a decade, the federal government has bailed out these southern states, literally and financially, time, and time again. Some cynical members of Congress have even suggested that it’s time for many homeowners to relocate. But attitudes are beginning to change, because other oxen are being gored. Mother Nature has given the Gulf South a pass in recent years, but she is causing havoc in other parts of the nation.

Oklahoma has suffered an unprecedented surge in both earthquakes and tornadoes and are clamoring for federal help. New York and New Jersey have a long way to go to recover from last year’s Hurricane Sandy. In Texas, hurricanes and wildfires have cost some $28 billion in recent years. California witnessed rapid growth in both drought and wildfires, and earthquakes remain a constant threat. A Wall Street Journal study published recently concluded that almost every state in the nation is subject to some major disaster.

So has a national plan that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars been proposed which is both comprehensive and affordable? Yes. Such a proposal was unveiled in New Orleans in May of 1995 at a catastrophe insurance conference sponsored by the American Insurance Services Group. I attended as Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties. We all agreed back then that there would be a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America unless a national disaster program was put in place.  And that’s just what’s happening across the country now.

Here is how it would work. Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state created fund.  The state fund would then be backed up by a nationally created fund.  The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved.  Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk.  Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage.  That was the plan then. And the good news is that in reaction to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the tornados in Oklahoma and Missouri, a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now.

It’s taken almost 24 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving.  It’s just not a handout for the coastal states.  The whole country will benefit.  And at a price that’s affordable.  We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

 

---

Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.

Published in Opinion
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 18:47

Health risks from wildfire smoke

As the death toll rises and thousands of acres burn between California’s Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, those residents lucky enough to escape the flames worry what consequences could result in inhaling the smoke.

What is in wildfire smoke?

 

According to the EPA, smoke emanating from forest and community fires may include any of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide, a respiratory byproduct
  • Carbon monoxide, which competes with oxygen in the blood
  • Wood particles
  • Formaldehyde
  • Acrolein – used as a pesticide
  • Benzene
  • Plastics, and those byproducts after incineration
  • and thousands of different respiratory irritants.

According to the EPA,

Smoke is composed primarily of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and several thousand other compounds. The actual composition of smoke depends on the fuel type, the temperature of the fire, and the wind conditions. Different types of wood and vegetation are composed of varying amounts of cellulose, lignin, tannins and other polyphenolics, oils, fats, resins, waxes and starches, which produce different compounds when burned.

What symptoms may individuals experience?

 

Some may have no idea they are breathing in harmful compounds that could affect their lungs and heart.  However, many may experience:

  • Wheeze
  • Cough
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Chest Pain
  • Mucous Production
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Racing Heart (palpitations)
  • Exacerbation of their lung disease including COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis
  • Exacerbation of heart conditions such as angina, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Increased susceptibility to new lung infections as well as flu

What are PM2.5s?

 

PM2.5 are particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that are present in pollution and wildfire smoke that can penetrate deeply into the lung linings.  Larger, coarse particles 10 micrometers in diameter are called PM10.  Both impair lung function as they inflame the lungs and interfere with the work of alveoli that need to oxygenate the blood.  Moreover the small particles can use this pathway to enter the bloodstream. Although the direct health impacts of the fine particulate matter is not clearly defined it is believed that increased PM2.5 levels increase the risk of lung and heart disease as discussed above.

lungs_alveoli-57ffa7fe3df78cbc284e162b

LUNGS AND ALVEOLI (IMAGE FROM THOUGHTCO.)

 

Symptoms may begin at levels greater than 55 µg/m3 .

Which individuals are the most at risk?

 

  • Infants and Children
  • Elderly individuals
  • Those with chronic lung disease, including asthma and emphysema
  • Those at risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Those with diabetes
  • Smokers
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with chronic allergies
  • Pets

How can residents protect themselves?

 

Avoiding the area of wildfires is paramount.  Additionally, the following may be considered:

 

  • Avoid outdoors until air quality reports improve.  Do not rely on how “clear” the air looks.
  • Take heed of wind and air quality advisories.
  • Recirculate the air in your home and car.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • Consult with your medical provider to monitor blood pressure, heart rhythm, lung function and refill any medications you may need BEFORE you feel symptoms.
  • Be wary of facemasks sold as PM2.5 safe as many do not protect against the very small particles. Respirator masks labelled N95 or N100 may provide SOME protection against particulates but not against the toxic fumes such as formaldehyde and acrolein.

 

Editor's note: As a companion read you might also be interested in a story we published in Sept. last year: 5 apps to help you recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

 

----

 

 

Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

Published in Health
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 21:46

Wildfire Smoke Health Risks

As the California Wildfires roar into a second week, those residents lucky enough to escape the flames worry what consequences could result in inhaling the smoke.

What is in wildfire smoke?

 

According to the EPA, smoke emanating from forest and community fires may include any of the following:

  • Carbon monoxide, which competes with oxygen in the blood

  • Carbon dioxide, a respiratory byproduct

  • Wood particles

  • Formaldehyde

  • Acrolein – used as a pesticide

  • Benzene

  • Plastics, and those byproducts after incineration

  • and thousands of different respiratory irritants.

According to the EPA,

Smoke is composed primarily of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and several thousand other compounds. The actual composition of smok depends on the fuel type, the temperature of the fire, and the wind conditions. Different types of wood and vegetation are composed of varying amounts of cellulose, lignin, tannins and other polyphenolics, oils, fats, resins, waxes and starches, which produce different compounds when burned.

What symptoms may individual's experience?

 

Some may have no idea they are breathing in harmful compounds that could affect their lungs and heart.  However, many may experience:

  • Cough

  • Wheeze

  • Difficulty Breathing

  • Chest Pain

  • Mucous Production

  • Dizziness/lightheadedness

  • Fatigue

  • Racing Heart (palpitations)

  • Exacerbation of their lung disease including COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis

  • Exacerbation of heart conditions such as angina, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Increased susceptibility to new lung infections as well as flu  

What are PM2.5s?

 

PM2.5 are particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that are present in pollution and wildfire smoke that can penetrate deeply into the lung linings.  Larger, coarse particles 10 micrometers in diameter are called PM10.  Both impair lung function as they inflame the lungs and interfere with the work of alveoli that need to oxygenate the blood.  Moreover the small particles can use this pathway to enter the bloodstream. Although the direct health impacts of the fine particulate matter is not clearly defined it is believed that increased PM2.5 levels increase the risk of lung and heart disease as discussed above.

 

lungs_alveoli-57ffa7fe3df78cbc284e162b

LUNGS AND ALVEOLI (IMAGE FROM THOUGHTCO.)

 

Symptoms may begin at levels greater than 55 µg/m3 .

Which individuals are the most at risk?

 

  • Infants and Children

  • Elderly individuals

  • Those with chronic lung disease, including asthma and emphysema

  • Those at risk for heart disease and stroke

  • Those with diabetes

  • Smokers

  • Pregnant women

  • Those with chronic allergies

  • Pets

How can residents protect themselves?

 

Avoiding the area of wildfires is paramount.  Additionally, the following may be considered:

  • Avoid outdoors until air quality reports improve.  Do not rely on how “clear” the air looks.

  • Take heed of wind and air quality advisories.

  • Recirculate the air in your home and car.

  • Keep windows closed.

  • Consult with your medical provider to monitor blood pressure, heart rhythm, lung function and refill any medications you may need BEFORE you feel symptoms.

  • Be wary of facemasks sold as PM2.5 safe as many do not protect against the very small particles. Respirator masks labelled N95 or N100 may provide SOME protection against particulates but not against the toxic fumes such as formaldehyde and acrolein.

----

 

 

Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

Published in News & Information

Hurricane specialist Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center tweeted that the world had never seen anything like the hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia -- three severe storms threatening land simultaneously. All the while it took more than two weeks for flood waters to recede in Houston, and more than a million acres have burned in Montana.

Many Americans have been forced from their homes, and they might not have homes to which to return. Even after the wildfires stop burning and the hurricanes dissipate, it could be weeks before roads are passable and utilities restored. There were reportedly 3.3 million Floridians without power Sunday night. And just because you can go home doesn’t mean you can live in your home. It could take months to rebuild and repair all the homes affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.

The increasing instances and intensities of these destructive weather events will further increase insurance rates, but technology can help victims of hurricanes and wildfires save money and save their sanity during most trying times. Here are five apps to help you recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

1) Waze

Waze is the best traffic navigation app out there. I tried it specifically because Google Maps kept recommending routes through construction zones that should have been avoided. Waze does a much better job avoiding construction and road closures because its users, called Wazers, help report those closures. When you’re trying to navigate a hurricane or wildfire, the last thing you need is to travel down a road only to be forced to turn around because the road is closed due to flooding or wildfires.

You might also need the assistance of police while navigating hurricanes and wildfires, and Wazers report the location of police officers, too. The best part about Waze is you can start your route using a Wifi hotspot or mobile data, and if you lose your connection, the app will still display your location and route. Wifi and mobile data services will most certainly be affected by the hurricanes, so having a GPS that will work regardless is invaluable to hurricane victims.

2) ParkAdvisor - RV Parks and Campgrounds

Insurance companies only offer so much money for so many days when people are forced from their homes due to flood or fire. The number of days and maximum payout will depend on your homeowner’s insurance plan, but it’s almost assuredly not enough, especially if you don’t have family or friends nearby with whom you can stay and are forced to pay for hotel rooms.

The ParkAdvisor app is free and provides a cheaper alternative to hotels. Plus, you can try to use this time away from home to take that family camping vacation you keep putting off. Camping will likely help you and your family restore its relationship with nature despite it testing your resolve. America has a lot to offer, and seeing it with your family around a campfire will take your mind off the rebuilding that will be required upon your return home.

3) Warmshowers

A foundation formed to help cyclists find places to rest their legs and get a warm shower, Warmshowers.org could really come in handy for hurricane and wildfire victims. If you rely on well water and have no electricity to pump the water into the well, you only have access to water until the well is dry. This happened to us in Eastern Montana after a “wind event” took out power for about a week. Since not all campgrounds provide access to water, getting a warm shower regularly can be one of the hardest things facing those recovering from hurricanes and wildfires.

4) Amazon

The mail is still delivered as soon as it can be delivered, so you can still order necessities online and have them delivered whether you’re at home or away from home. Say you need a solar panel to charge your mobile devices because power is still out at your place. You can have one delivered the next day. Depending on your location, you can have some items shipped the same day if you’re a Prime member.

5) Sortly

Victims of hurricanes and wildfires who return to find homes and furnishings destroyed will be required to take inventory of the items for insurance purposes. Sortly allows you to easily create and export lists, including photos, SKU, UPC or serial numbers, and notes on damage or original purchase price and date. You can even tag the items of your list so you can easily find them later.

Don’t recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma as you did Katrina or Sandy. Use technology to your advantage and help make hurricane and wildfire recovery easier on you and your family.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, The Magic Garden, The Paul Parent Garden Club Show, USA Prepares, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Home Talk

Published in News & Information