DEC 28, 2017 6:05 AM PST

Smoke Gets In Your Brain

In the fall of 2017, wildfires raged in Northern California. Dubbed the Northern California firestorm, it included a total of 250 separate fires. Twenty-one of these fires became major fires and burned at least 245,000 acres. The most well-known of these, the Tubbs fire, eventually became the state’s worst wildfire ever.
 
The first week of October became the deadliest week in the state’s history due to fire deaths. A new study from Stanford University showed that in addition to these casualties, the air quality during the height of the fires was more dangerous than just shortness of breath and watery eyes. Experts found that the smoke in the air could also cause neurological problems for area residents.
 
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District oversees air quality in San Francisco and the surrounding area. On specific “Spare the Air” days, residents are not allowed to have outdoor fires or fires in home fireplaces. While not the same as a wide area of forest burning, even a fireplace fire at a neighbor’s home can impact the air and can be noticed. In an interview with ABC7News, Bay area resident Jojo Ho, a runner who logs miles each day, stated, “I notice that my workouts are shorter or I'm not able to take as deep breaths. And sometimes there even is that little twinge of chest pain."
 
Dr. Eric Zee, a pediatrics professor at Stanford, spoke with reporters and detailed the effects that wood smoke can have on children and teens. He explained, “We're finding in young adults that there may be an increased risk of psychiatric problems like depression. It also affects grades and test scores and things like that." Fine particulate matter, (PM 2.5), is present in wood smoke and can lodge in the lungs. From there it causes widespread inflammation in the body, including the brain. Zee warned that these effects could take years to show up, pointing out that the result could be, “…neurological problems in growth and development and in one's later years.”
 
The information from Stanford backs up the policies of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s long-held policy of regulating wood burning. While their focus has been vulnerable individuals such as older adults, those with respiratory disease and compromised immune systems, the new information supports limiting outdoor burning. Eric Stevenson, the meteorology and measurements director, told the press, “We have some of the most progressive regulations on burning in the nation. That's the importance of this study. That it isn't just sensitive individuals. It's all of us." The goal is to get residents to think before they burn and the new information could make that easier.
 
While the wildfires were a devastating environmental event, the increased knowledge of how smoke impacts more than the lungs and can even affect brain health, are all part of a silver lining in the clouds of choking black smoke that terrorized entire counties. The video below has additional information on the fires and what experts believe could be long-lasting health effects.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JUL 18, 2021
Neuroscience
How Slime Molds Think Without a Brain
JUL 18, 2021
How Slime Molds Think Without a Brain
A brainless slime mold known as Physarum polycephalum uses its body to sense mechanical cues in its environment. Then, i ...
JUL 22, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Enhancing Myelin to Treat Alzheimer's Disease
JUL 22, 2021
Enhancing Myelin to Treat Alzheimer's Disease
Brain cells, or neurons, communicate through electrochemical signals. The electrical signals travel down a neuron’ ...
AUG 01, 2021
Neuroscience
Keto-based Dietary Supplement Reduces Epileptic Seizures
AUG 01, 2021
Keto-based Dietary Supplement Reduces Epileptic Seizures
K.Vita, a dietary supplement, reduced seizures by 50% in adults and children with drug-resistant epilepsy in its first c ...
AUG 05, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Brain's Version of THC Reduces Seizures, Increases Side Effects
AUG 05, 2021
Brain's Version of THC Reduces Seizures, Increases Side Effects
An endocannabinoid similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that naturally occurs in the brain reduces seizure activity. Ho ...
AUG 10, 2021
Neuroscience
Is consciousness a quantum phenomenon?
AUG 10, 2021
Is consciousness a quantum phenomenon?
Researchers experiments with quantum fractals reveal promising direction for consciousness research
AUG 11, 2021
Health & Medicine
Mental Health-Where is COVID-19 Leading Us?
AUG 11, 2021
Mental Health-Where is COVID-19 Leading Us?
It has been established that there is no single cause of psychiatric illness. As with many other diseases, psychiatric i ...
Loading Comments...