Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of many forests to wildfires and is also projected to increase the frequency of wildfires in certain regions of the United States. Long periods of record high temperatures are associated with droughts that contribute to dry conditions and drive wildfires in some areas. Wildfire smoke contains particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and various volatile organic compounds (which are ozone precursors) and can significantly reduce air quality, both locally and in areas downwind of fires.
Smoke exposure increases respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations; emergency department visits; medication dispensations for asthma, bronchitis, chest pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (commonly known by its acronym, COPD), and respiratory infections; and medical visits for lung illnesses. It has also been associated with hundreds of thousands of deaths annually, based on an assessment of the global health risks from landscape fire smoke. Climate change is projected to increase wildfire risks and associated emissions, with harmful impacts on health.
CDC Wildfire Resources:
- Wildfires – prepare for a wildfire, stay safe during a wildfire, and protect your health when you return home after a wildfire
- Wildfire Smoke and Air Quality – resources to protect yourself from wildfire smoke, particularly for people with respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses, and children, pregnant women, and responders
- NIOSH Fighting Wildfires – resources for wildland firefighters, fire departments, and partner organizations