No, breathing wildfire smoke is not like smoking cigarettes

Photo: Ahmer Kalam/Unsplash

Wildfires in Canada have blanketed much of the country in smoke that can be harmful to people’s health. So it’s not a huge surprise that people are trying to quantify the health risks by comparing wildfire smoke to smoking cigarettes.

But a number of experts, including Dr. Susan Buchanan, a clinical associate professor in the School of Public Health at UIC, said this is a faulty comparison that may actually downplay the dangers of breathing in wildfire smoke. Buchanan and others were quoted in an article in the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, New York.

Buchanan stressed that there have been no lab experiments comparing cigarettes and wildfire smoke, so there’s no basis for saying that standing outside in the smoke equates to smoking a certain number of cigarettes.

But the lack of scientific comparisons does not mean that the wildfire smoke should be taken lightly, she told the newspaper.

“That means that some people with heart disease and lung problems are going to have increased symptoms,” Buchanan said in the interview. “They should stay inside in air-conditioning” preferably with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values 13 filtration or higher.

You can learn more, including how a more accurate comparison may be between wildfire smoke and living with a chain smoker, by reading the full article.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Research Briefs