Smoke from burning wood or other plants is made up of a complex mixture of harmful gases and small particles, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxin and inhalable particulate matter (PM). PM is the principal pollutant of concern from short-term exposures to wood smoke.
Most healthy adults and children will recover quickly from smoke exposures. However, certain sensitive groups are more vulnerable to wood smoke effects and may experience more severe symptoms. Sensitive groups include: children, pregnant women, older adults, those with cardiovascular diseases, and those with asthma and other respiratory diseases.
People who have asthma may experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels than healthy people. Small PM from wood smoke gets into the respiratory system as well as eyes and sinuses. Breathing in wood smoke and small PM can irritate the lungs of someone with asthma and may lead to an asthma attack. Long-term exposure to wood smoke can lead to reduced lung function.
Dry conditions in parts of the United States increase the potential for wildfires in or near wilderness areas. When wildfires burn in your area, they produce smoke that may reach your community. In certain weather conditions, smoke from wildfires in other states and even countries may spread into your community, which could impact visibility and affect health.
Stay alert for wildfire warnings and take action to protect yourself and your family from wildfire smoke. Learn more at the CDC webpage Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke and the EPA webpage Fires and Your Health. Interested in local and national wildfire locaions? You can track wildfire locations locally and nationally.