Prescribed Fires and Air Quality
CDC & Forest Service Address Fires & Air Quality
NCEH Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects (EHHE) staff recently joined Forest Service staff and staff at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at IchauwayExternal in Newton, GA, to examine the importance of prescribed burns in forest management and the prevention of uncontrolled forest fire.
CDC, USFS, and Jones Center experts discussed wildfires, forest management, and the health effects of both planned and unplanned fire events. Smoke from wildfires—a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other materials—hurts the eyes, irritates the respiratory system, and worsens chronic heart and lung diseases. Smoke from wildfires can travel long distances, meaning that residual smoke can threaten the health of individuals living a significant distance from any wildfire.
During the Ichauway meeting, CDC staff learned about the challenges the Forest Service faces in the Southern Region, some potential human health implications of the urban-forest interface and smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires, and the value of forests for watershed protection and water quality.
Land managers use fire as a management tool through prescribed burns, as a number of forest ecosystems are dependent upon periodic fire. However, the human health effects from smoke make the planned use of fire more and more challenging as the rural landscapes continues to urbanize, not only in the Southeast, but nationwide.