What California wildfires may do to human health

More than 10,000 acres have burned due to a fire caused by a "smoke-generating pyrotechnic device" used at a party on Saturday morning at El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire investigators determined. 09/08/2020. Photo credit: Azusa Police via Latin America News Agency

With several wildfires burning in California, smoke is in the atmosphere, ash is blanketing doorsteps, and skies are orange. The air quality is hazardous in some parts of the state for people with respiratory issues. Even people without breathing problems, could they get them by inhaling this air? 

“Air quality has just been getting worse every day. … It’s just all over California,” says Dr. Reza Ronaghi, pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center.

He says that even if you don’t see or smell smoke, micro millimeter-sized particles still exist in the air. 

How do the tiny particles affect your health? “They cause irritations in our lungs. So you may get a burning sensation in the back of your throat. You may end up getting a cough. You may get some burning sensation in your chest. … Sometimes if it gets into your eyes, you may get some runny eyes, some kind of runny nose. These are the typical most common symptoms that you see.” 

He adds that if you have an underlying lung disease, the particles may also exacerbate that. “COPD [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], emphysema, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, asthma, anything that has your lungs have some disease to begin with, these fires and these particles can make those diseases worse, making you feel more short of breath and having more of a cough.” 

Credits

Guest:
Dr. Reza Ronaghi - pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Nihar Patel