As flames continue to rage in forests from one end of the country to the other, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and health authorities are urging caution as air quality deteriorates. They also urge us to be wary of heat, which can be more harmful than smoke.
“The health of our population is closely linked to the health of our environment,” said Minister Duclos at the introduction to the press conference on Monday. More than 100,000 people have already been evacuated since the fires began and we are already seeing impacts on the physical and mental health of Canadians, he noted.
In addition to the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr.D Theresa Tam and Deputy Chief Administrator, DR Liberal Minister Howard Njoo stressed Monday that half of the ongoing wildfires are still out of control.
He added that six million hectares of forest have burned since the start of the season, an area 18 times larger than the 10-year average at the same time. Furthermore, the minister warns that it could be several more weeks before we reach the peak of the season.
Jean-Yves Duclos warns the population about numerous pollutants in smoke that can have serious health effects. The DD Theresa Tam added that the fine particles in smoke pose the greatest health risk.
The government is urging people to monitor changes in air quality in their area. In the event of a significant deterioration in air quality, we recommend wearing an N-95 mask to reduce inhalation of fine particles.
The DD Tam mentions that smoke travels very long distances, meaning that “no matter where you live in Canada, you can be bothered by smoke.”
If air quality deteriorates, it is better to stay indoors and close the windows.
Seniors, pregnant women, babies and young children, people with asthma or other chronic illnesses, people who work outdoors, and those who engage in strenuous outdoor activities must exercise great caution. Caution. This includes firefighters and emergency responders who work at fire scenes.
The entire population is asked to be vigilant to recognize symptoms related to smoke inhalation or poor air quality. We are talking about, among other things, irritation of the respiratory tract, coughing and headaches.
To (re)see: Should you wear a mask during smog episodes?
Cocktail of heat and smoke
Canada’s public health system also emphasizes the risks associated with heat. For many people with a variety of medical conditions, the effects of extreme heat can be more damaging than those of poor air quality.
According to DR Howard Njoo, watch for symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as headaches, muscle cramps, thirst, dark urine, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.
“Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids. If you have to choose, staying cool is more important than air quality because heat-related illnesses are more serious than smoking-related illnesses,” he points out.
Ideally, people stay indoors, in the fresh air and have an air purifier and air conditioning. If you don’t have such devices, you can take refuge in cool public places.
Given the increasing frequency of wildfires and increasing vulnerability to remote populations, Public Health is concerned about the long-term impacts.
The DD Theresa Tam explains that growing scientific evidence shows that seasonal exposure to wildfires can have long-term health consequences. She points out that indigenous communities in northern and remote regions are disproportionately affected by natural disasters.
This year, many First Nations have had to abandon their homes and traditional lands due to floods or fires, she noted.
The Canadian Press health content is funded through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial selection.
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