Nearby wildfires increase cancer risk

A new study from McGill University finds higher incidence of lung cancer and brain tumors in people exposed to wildfires. The study, which tracks over 2 million Canadians over a period of 20 years, is the first to examine how proximity to forest fires may influence cancer risk…

Published in The Lancet Planetary Health, the study shows that people living within 50 kilometers of wildfires over the past 10 years had a 10% higher incidence of brain tumors and 4.9% higher incidence of lung cancer than people living further away.

Wildfires typically occur in similar regions each year, and as a result, people living in nearby communities might be exposed to carcinogenic wildfire pollutants on a chronic basis, warn the researchers.

In addition to impacts on air quality, wildfires also pollute aquatic, soil, and indoor environments. While some pollutants return to normal concentrations shortly after the fire has stopped burning, other chemicals might persist in the environment for long periods of time, including heavy metals and hydrocarbons. “Exposure to harmful environmental pollutants might continue beyond the period of active burning through several routes of exposure,” adds Professor Weichenthal

Just being an old geezer, I’ve been staying indoors on detectable “smoke days” during the unusually severe wildfire wildfire patch we’re experiencing this spring. Now, I get to worry even more.

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