Exposure to dangerous pollution caused by forest fires is increasing and is likely to continue, according to a study published just as a wave of heat and dryness stokes the risk of wildfires around the world.
Fire-related air pollution can cause health problems ranging from heart and lung damage to death, researchers said. The study revealed that the number of people exposed to high levels of pollution for at least one day a year increased by almost 7% to more than 2 billion between 2010 and 2019.. Most people have an average of almost 10 days of exposure each year, concluded the study published in the journal Nature.
According to the WHO, cases of hypertension doubled but very few receive treatment
The findings come as the world faces unprecedented heat, after enduring the hottest summer on record. Wildfires have grabbed headlines and devastated lives from Maui to Greece to North America in recent months, as Australia prepares for a period of intense bushfires as the frequency of extreme weather events increases around the world.
Air pollution levels from fires in low-income countries were nearly quadruple the levels in high-income countries, the study found, with the highest risk seen in central Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and Siberia.
Wildfire smoke inhalation has previously been linked to premature birthlow birth weight, poor lung development, and an increased need for prescription medications during childhood.