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The burning reality of wildfire smoke and its public health impacts

Regardless of whether you live in a city or rural setting, BCCDC wildfire experts want people to take steps to protect themselves from inhaling wildfire smoke. A new series of fact sheets are available online to help. 
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​In addition to spring, summer, fall and winter, B.C. has added a fifth season to its calendar – wildfire season. And with the month of May now in full swing, fires are already burning in parts of the province.

“Preparing for wildfire season is incredibly important,” said Sarah Henderson, a Senior Scientist with Environmental Health Services at BCCDC. “The more people we can get talking about the effects of smoke from wildfires, the better.”

Sarah Henderson

The summers of 2015, 2017, and 2018 were the worst on record for wildfires in B.C. The impact of wildfires hit hard last year when, for the first-time ever, Metro Vancouver was under a record-setting air quality advisory that lasted 22 days. 

“It’s really got people’s attention,” Henderson said. “Based on what’s happened over the past few years, wildfire smoke will begin to dominate our lifetime exposure to air pollution. We need to prepare – and prepare early -- for every wildfire season with the thought that it may be the worse season ever.”

Health impacts from wildfire smoke

Little research exists on whether or not there are longer-lasting health effects from seasonal wildfire smoke, and caution is recommended in the absence of scientific evidence. BCCDC recommends the following groups reduce their exposure to wildfire smoke:

  • People with chronic conditions, especially lung and heart diseases
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Infants, young children
Planning your personal wildfire response

BCCDC has extensive information available to help people with wildfire smoke response planning. BCCDC has also posted three new wildfire-focused fact sheets. This fact sheet library will continue to expand as more information becomes available. 

BC Centre for Disease Control



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