Smoke from Canadian wildfires may pose health risk for some Kentuckians

Smoke from Canadian wildfires may pose health risk for some Kentuckians
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 4:34 PM EDT
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KENTUCKY (WKYT) - Wildfires have been raging in parts of Canada for the past few weeks, and the smoke from these fires is traveling across parts of North America, including into parts of Kentucky, and for some, it could have negative health effects.

“I mean, obviously, the biggest effect you are going to see is along the respiratory tract. So, our biggest concern is going to be like high pollen or anything else. You are going to have lung irritants and eye irritants, so the main thing we will tell people to look out for itchy, watery eyes, stuff like that, that’s considered normal,” said Major Derek Roberts with the Lexington Fire Department.

According to the EPA, wildfire smoke is a complex mixture containing multiple components, but one aspect of the smoke, called particle pollution, is the primary health threat.

“Wildfire smoke is usually more organic; less contaminants. The kind of smoke you are going to see on a structure fire. You will see plastics asphalt from the shingles, stuff like that. You are going to see wood that’s been processed. So it’s a completely different kind of smoke,” said Maj. Roberts.

Recently, Kentucky has dealt with wildfires stretching from last fall in Estill County and even this spring in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The smoke from the fire in Estill County even made an impact in Lexington.

Fire officials recommend a couple of things to help if you are experiencing the effects of the smoke.

“If you are near a wildfire, obviously the big things you can do are stay inside. I’m not recommending that people stay inside, but if you are outside, limit your exposure,” Maj. Roberts said.

Some of the smoke has been prevalent in the upper levels of the atmosphere, giving the appearance of a milky haze in the sky, but the smoke closer to the surface should last through till Wednesday.