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Wildfires

Lisa Patel, MD and Katherine Gundling MD
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28:06

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Lisa sits down with Katherine Gundling, a Professor Emerita in the Department of Medicine and former practice chief for the Allergy/Immunology faculty practice at UCSF, to discuss how climate change is affecting human health for people living on the West Coast.

  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) is based on 5 air pollutants, including ground level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide
    • There are different tiers of safety 

  • Particle pollution: PM 2.5 (can get into lungs and vasculature) and PM 10 tells you the size of a particle in microns
    • Air pollution is a known killer in that it triggers excess of deaths and greatly exacerbates problems in patients with asthma, COPD and even cardiovascular illness.

  • Wildfire smoke is similar to cigarette smoke in it’s burning a vegetative matter and natural wood products
    • Additional toxins are in the air depending on the structures burned; fortunately, many of those toxins do not travel miles and miles from the actual site of burning

    • Wildfire smoke is composed predominantly of very small particles than easily enter the lungs
  • Areas of research include: prolonged exposure to wildfires, especially for infants, children, pregnant women and then elderly
  • While in the midst of wildfires, mitigation behaviors include: wearing a mask (N95 that has been properly fitted, if possible), restraining from strenuous exercise and staying indoors
    • Packing a “go bag” is also important if you are in an evacuation area

    • Inside, if available, air conditioners can be placed on internal circulation and/or use HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter which can take out some particulate matter
  • Climate change must also be looked at through the lens of health equity and is now being recognized formally in many medical school curriculums
    •  This must also be recognized in clinical care

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October 2020 Peds RAP Written Summary 385 KB - PDF

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