Story at a glance:

  • Scientists are particularly worried about tiny particles in smoke from wildfires.
    • Wildfire smoke seems to be more dangerous than the common air pollution caused by cars.
    • A retired firefighter got kidney cancer.

If there is an indication from the blood samples of firefighters, wildfires may have a long-term effect on one's health.

Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford University's Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, has studied the blood samples of firefighters between August and September 2020.

Her results are still pending, but she and other scientists are worried that pollution from a tiny airborne particle smaller than the human hair, known as PM2.5, could go deep into the lungs of her sample patients, NBC News reported.


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"The size of that particulate can, when you inhale it, go all the way to the base of your lungs and then cross over into your bloodstream," Prunicki said. “Once it's in the bloodstream, it can go to various organs and do all kinds of damage."

"In the climate science community, we've been predicting these types of impacts for decades now," Tom Corringham, an environmental economist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said.

The PM2.5 from wildfire smoke appears to be more dangerous than that from other forms of air pollution, including car exhaust, the journal Nature Communications noted.

Even short-term exposure to wildfire smoke may be hazardous, the scientists warn.

What scientists fear is that wildfire smoke can be supercharged by climate change conditions.

Tony Stefani is a retired San Francisco fire captain who was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. Although he does not know whether or not he got it from his work, he founded the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation in 2006.

Stefani's foundation works alongside scientists to advocate safer working conditions and better public health measures for firefighters.


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Published on Apr 24, 2021