American Lung Association Issues new Warning for People Living near Wildfires

American Lung Association Issues new Warning for People Living near Wildfires

1 March 2009

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USA — The American Lung Association has issued a new warning for people who live in locations where wildfires are affecting air quality.

The dangerous air pollution which can result from wildfires can be lethal to people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and asbestosis, and people with chronic heart disease are also at risk.

The ALA recommends that people with these conditions take extra precautions to stay safe and healthy if they live near areas where wildfires exist, and that they call their doctor immediately if they experience unusual symptoms or a worsening of existing symptoms.

Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association, says, “Even those without lung diseases are at risk during this time. With the rising air pollution levels we are seeing in the affected areas, there is increased risk of coughing and wheezing, asthma attacks, as well as heart attacks and strokes, especially for older adults and outdoor workers. Take special care to protect children. They are more susceptible to smoke, because their respiratory systems are still developing.”

The ALA recommends that people who live downwind of wildfire areas stay indoors whenever possible, and avoid breathing ash and smoke-filled air. People should avoid exercising outdoors, and should set their air conditioners to “recirculates,” to prevent the systems drawing in air from outside.

Edelman says, “People with respiratory problems and chronic heart disease are at greatest risk during this time. Due to the extremely high levels of pollutants, many people may be experiencing increased symptoms and should contact their doctor promptly, especially those using oxygen. People using oxygen are strongly cautioned to not adjust their levels of intake without consulting their doctor first.”
The ALA also advises that people with asthma talk with their doctors about whether they should change their medication to cope with smoke and ash-laden air conditions.
The organization also says that people can find suitable dust masks at hardware and home supply stores, which can filter out fine particles such as ash and dust. People should look for masks labeled “P1000” or “N95.”
However, the ALA warns that people with lung and heart conditions should consult their doctor before purchasing or using these masks, to ensure they can be worn safely.

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