The wildfire smoke from the 2020 fire season has created extremely unhealthy air quality in much of the western US. But, what exactly does the temporary air pollution mean for your health later in life? The Center for Disease Control says that the smoke can have prolonged effects on your body, even after the haze clears.

According to a report from KVAL in Oregon

"The smoke particulates in the atmosphere irritate the lungs, making breathing more difficult," said Robert Stalbow, Respiratory Therapist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. 

"Particles bigger than 10 micrometers can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat but do not usually reach your lungs. Ten micrometers is about seven times thinner than one human hair," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained.

The CDC recommends that "sensitive groups" like the elderly, pregnant and youth should limit their time spent outdoors. Exposure of the unhealthy air can lead to decreased lung growth in children, adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, and the dreaded lung cancer.

There are multiple ways for Montana communities to prepare for and adapt to changing fire seasons. Wildfire smoke is a public health issue, and strategies such as utilizing portable air cleaners and smarter building design can help people stay healthy and cool.  There are other risks from climate change that we in Montana need to understand and build strategies to address. And we need to work together reduce the root cause by reducing carbon pollution!


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