Smoke from Wildfires Increases of Heart Disease


The wildfire season experienced by California in 2015 led to an increase in the number of visits to the emergency department related to heart complications. Research has indicated that this development took place as a result of exposure to smoke experienced by people living in this region during that period. The study consisted of a review of over one million cases that reached the emergency department and was conducted by Ana G, Rappold, Ph.D., and her colleagues from the Environmental Protection Agency. The study discovered that emergency rooms experienced a 42% rise in heart attack cases and a 22% increment of visits related to ischemic heart disease during days experiencing particularly dense smoke. These reactions were mostly exhibited by individuals aged 65 years and older.

Wildfire Smoke and Heart Disease

Exposure to smoke from wildfires has been established as a leading cause of enhanced risk factors related to respiratory conditions such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. However, a connection between this element and cardiovascular complications has yet to be clearly identified, and further research is required to illuminate such risk. Some of the heart problems that can be related to wildfire smoke include ischemic strokes, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. These diseases can develop as a result of breathing in the pollutant particles present in the air during these events.

Speaking about the difficulties of conducting such a research, Zachary S. Wettstein, one of the co-authors of the study stated that while cases of respiratory problems during the event of a wildfire are commonplace in most hospitals, cases of heart complications such as strokes and the like are less documented in connection with this development. This makes it a harder subject to study, as it requires the collection of data from numerous emergency rooms in order to accumulate an efficient amount of information. An increase in such cardiovascular cases was more pronounced in the elderly population as compared to their younger counterparts.

Heart Disease and Related Populations

Studies also revealed that people suffering from potential cardiovascular and respiratory diseases experienced higher risk when subjected to the exposure of wildfire smoke, as a result of the declining quality of air that can be enjoyed during such periods. Wayne Cascio, MD, another co-author of the study and a director at the EPA suggested that such candidates should take measures to temporarily relocate away from the affected region, or take up actions that will improve their current conditions where possible. The main aim of any endeavor that is undertaken should be to lessen the levels of exposure being suffered in connection to the wildfire smoke.

The director also pointed out the importance of raising awareness amongst the public regarding this particular risk, with such objectives requiring the involvement of qualified professionals and the government health department. Such educative measures could help save lives as they could potentially reduce the number of cases categorized under this particular risk, as well as help form preventative measures for such scenarios in order to lessen the negative impact wildfire smoke has on the nearby residents.