Bushfire smoke deadly for lungs: study

Bushfire smoke deadly for lungs: study

16 January 2014

published by www.news.com.au

Australia — NEW medical research has confirmed exposure to smoke from bushfires can be as damaging as cigarette smoke.

Laboratory tests on human lung cells by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney show bushfire smoke can scar and inflame lungs, just as cigarettes do.

“We take cigarette smoke exposure very seriously,” said cell biologist Brian Oliver.

“Our evidence suggests it might be time to do the same with wood smoke and try to minimise exposure.”

Air pollution is known to soar during bushfires.

Between 1994 and 2007, bushfires in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle were associated with increased hospital admissions for asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

During the fire emergency in the Sydney region in October last year, residents were warned about tiny particles from bushfire smoke that go deep into the lungs and irritate the airways.

Dr Olivier said the Woolcock study focused on the potential role wood smoke played in triggering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which attacks and destroys lungs.

The two main forms of COPD emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and COPD affects one in 13 Australians aged over 40, usually due to smoking.

Researchers say the study also raise concerns about the effects of using wood for heating and cooking in developing countries.

“The smoke we inhale from burning biomass fuels can do long-term lasting damage to our lungs,” Dr Olivier said in a statement.

The findings were published in the international scientific journal PLOS ONE, an open access peer-reviewed publication.

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