Extreme wildfire events are becoming more common and while the immediate risks of particulate exposures to susceptible populations (i.e., elderly, asthmatics) are appreciated, the long-term health effects are not known. In 2017, the Seeley Lake (SL), MT area experienced unprecedented levels of wildfire smoke from July 31 to September 18, with a daily average of 220.9 µg/m3 . The aim of this study was to conduct health assessments in the community and evaluate potential adverse health effects. The study resulted in the recruitment of a cohort (n = 95, average age: 63 years), for a rapid response screening activity following the wildland fire event, and two follow-up visits in 2018 and 2019. Analysis of spirometry data found a significant decrease in lung function (FEV1 /FVC ratio: forced expiratory volume in first second/forced vital capacity) and a more than doubling of participants that fell below the lower limit of normal (10.2% in 2017 to 45.9% in 2018) one year following the wildfire event, and remained decreased two years (33.9%) post exposure. In addition, observed FEV1 was significantly lower than predicted values. These findings suggest that wildfire smoke can have long-lasting effects on human health. As wildfires continue to increase both here and globally, understanding the health implications is vital to understanding the respiratory impacts of these events as well as developing public health strategies to mitigate the effects.
- Health effects
- Wildfire smoke