Wildfire smoke in Kamloops had 'significant' impacts on health: report

By Greg Fry
October 19, 2017 - 10:51am Updated: October 20, 2017 - 9:00am

KAMLOOPS — A new study confirmed what many in Kamloops already suspected: this summer's wildfire smoke "significantly impacted health and healthy lifestyles."

The report was released by Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society today (Oct. 19).

The report follows the most devastating wildfire season in provincial history, a season where over one million hectares of forest was burned. It examined the results of an online survey of more than 640 people, highly stacked with those suffering from symptoms, from Aug. 7 to Sept. 4, 2017. 

The report's primary author, Dr. Jill Calder, said the symptoms residents experienced varied.

"It ranged from throat irritation, sore throat, hoarse throat, eye irritation, headache, irritability," she said. "People noticed they were fatigued and tired and not sleeping well. The air waves irritation was causing cough and phlegm. A lot of nose irritation, some people explained anxiety and mood changes, sleep disruption and upset stomach and nausea."

The survey results were consistent with literature reviewed in the last 10 years when it comes to observations of symptoms and impacts of wildfire smoke on a population and included a list of recommendations which included encouraging health authorities to develop a system of monitoring the health of the population in B.C. for both short term and long term impacts.

It also suggested the Ministry of Health partner with the Ministry of Environment to develop alerts with a time scale suitable to describe short-term fluctuations in the smoke produced by wildfires and which utilize all relevant measurements available in a community such as Kamloops.

Recommendations to the Province include supplying facemasks, providing filters for furnace-fans, enacting a disaster response plan and providing guidelines for people who work outside, including protection measures for workers.

Calder hopes the study makes a difference.

"I would like to see it be considered in the discussions that are going on provincially now with what to do either prevent or attenuate the effect of forest fires."

To view the full report, click here.




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