Since the forest fire declared last Wednesday in Sierra Bermeja began, Infoca’s Regional Operational Center (COR) has been issuing constant messages to nearby towns so that its inhabitants stay away from the column of smoke generated by the fire. The authorities’ warning is based on the harmful effects on health of the particles that make up the cloud originated in forest fires.

According to researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Sciences at the University of California (published in the journal Nature Communications), “there is a considerable difference between the toxicity of fine particles (PM 2 , 5) according to their origin and in the case of forest fires, they are attributed a greater potential to cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the lung ”, they detail. Based on these data, the report concludes that “forest fire smoke is up to 10 times more harmful to human health than PM 2.5 from other sources.”

Smoke from a fire is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles that are produced when firewood and other organic materials are burned. “These microscopic particles pose a threat to health because they can cause problems when they reach the eyes and respiratory system. In the case of people with chronic heart and lung diseases, their diagnoses may be aggravated “, explains the Chief of the Pneumology Service of the Quirónsalud Marbella Hospital, the doctor Jose Maria Ignacio Garcia. The specialist recommends the use of specific protection masks that prevent the passage of these molecules. “Those people who are near a fire or in the radius of influence of the smoke column generated, must use FFP2 and FFP3 masks whose level of protection prevents the inhalation of particles from them. In these cases, the surgical mask is not effective ”, he points out.

The impact of pollution by forest fires does not affect the entire population in the same way, specialists emphasize that children (whose respiratory system is developing) and the elderly are more vulnerable to its effects. Exposure to wildfire smoke can trigger a number of symptoms: burning eyes, runny nose, cough, phlegm, wheezing. “People with lung diseases may perceive loss of strength when breathing or even difficulty in inspiration,” says Dr. Ignacio.

Special care when cleaning the ashes

The cloud generated by a forest fire usually propels smoke particles miles away from the source of the flames. A path that is visible by the ashes that the cloud leaves behind in gardens, terraces, roofs … Special care must be taken when removing these remains “we must avoid the suspension of the molecules in the air since we can inhale them and that they have direct access to the lungs ”, warns the specialist of the Quirónsalud Marbella Hospital.

For cleaning tasks we recommend:

  • Use vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.
  • Take your vehicle to the car wash.
  • Wash toys that have been in contact with ash;
  • Clean ash from pet fur.
  • Avoid any skin contact with the ash.

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