Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
According to recent reporting from The Hill, atmospheric smoke is exacerbating the toll of the COVID-19 virus in Oregon and California. Smoke inhalation weakens the immune systems of those suffering from asthma and other underlying respiratory conditions, compromising their ability to recover from the virus.
Researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that even a small increase in the amount of fine particulate matter (like that resulting from wildfires) from one U.S. county to the next was associated with a large increase in the death rate from COVID-19.
What’s worse is that smoke is placing an even greater strain on healthcare resources, since hospitalizations normally increase during wildfire season. As the Guardian wrote, California’s Stanford Health Care system reported that hospital admissions have jumped by 12% in recent weeks, including a stunning 43% increase in cerebrovascular conditions such as strokes.
In Oregon, health officials reported nearly one out of 10 people visiting the emergency room had asthma-like conditions due to the smoke.
Meanwhile, the smoke has forced many public health facilities — including critical care units, outdoor testing sites, facilities for patients recovering from coronavirus, and health labs — to relocate their patients or shut down.
Why this Matters: Being able to stay indoors and have access to air filtration and air conditioning as a precaution to both coronavirus and wildfire smoke is a luxury not afforded to everyone.
Environmental racism and lack of affordable healthcare already place low-income communities at higher risk of respiratory illness and weeks of ongoing wildfires have underscored this disparity. The San Francisco Bay Area has seen over a month of consecutive Spare the Air days resulting from wildfires just as the state has surpassed 15,000 coronavirus deaths. Vulnerable communities have increasingly fewer resources to keep themselves safe from the dual threats of wildfires and COVID-19, with little hope of government relief in sight.
Along with creating and exacerbating respiratory disabilities, wildfires pose a significantly greater risk to people who lack the resources to flee from the fires. While wealthier people have the option to relocate, many low-income Californians have been forced to remain in the high-risk areas where their homes are. Substandard low-income housing is often ineffective at keeping out smoke. The health department suggests purchasing devices like air purifiers and AC systems–which aren’t affordable for everyone. Meanwhile, unhoused people have very little protection from dangerous ambient air quality.
These wildfires shine a light on existing racial and class disparities in our housing and healthcare systems. As we work to bolster the health of our society it’s important to remember that a pandemic of this nature will not be over once a vaccine is made available. We must work to ensure that healthcare is not a luxury and that the environment and people’s homes aren’t what’s making them vulnerable to infectious disease.
Why This Matters: A study of 30,000 firefighters from 2010 to 2015 found that firefighters have an increased risk of many different cancers including: leukemia, malignant mesothelioma, bladder and prostate cancers, lung cancer, brain cancer, and digestive and oral cancers.
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer World Health Organization expert Dr. Peter Ben Embarek revealed this week that the organization’s team of researchers have found two scenarios that could have transferred COVID-19 to humans. He acknowledges that COVID-19 could have been transmitted through frozen products at the Wuhan fish market, but the most likely scenario […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer A new study published Monday has found that a second, sneezier plague is ramping up. Allergy seasons have increased in duration by an average of 20 days since 1990. Why? Rising temperatures and an abundance of atmospheric carbon are increasing the amount of pollen in the air, and researchers say the […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.