Prof outlines health risks posed by wildfires

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Several wildfires in the Canadian province of Quebec have caused hazy skies and sent air quality plunging in parts of Ontario and the northeastern United States. The most harmful air pollutant worldwide is fine particular matter, with the biggest natural source of this pollutant being wildfires.

Dr. Rebecca Saari, a professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo, discusses the immediate and long-term threats to our health from poor air quality currently being experienced. 

What is the immediate health risk to people in Canada and the US experiencing poor air quality due to wildfires?

People may experience various symptoms, like irritation of the nose and throat, coughing, or headaches. Numerous studies show links between wildfires specifically, and respiratory symptoms. People with underlying health risks, especially respiratory and cardiovascular illness, are at higher risk for more serious outcomes, like asthma attacks, that may require hospitalization.  

Go to Q and A with the experts: Health risks posed by wildfires for the full story.