Doctor talks possible long-term impact from inhaling wildfire smoke
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s been plenty of days this summer where the pollutants are so heavy in the air that the Sandias are barely visible. A UNM doctor is saying those days, compounded, could be dangerous for our lung health.
The big culprit? Smoke from massive wildfires thousands of miles away, burning in California.
"We’re seeing the effects from California, we’re having a ‘Yellow Day’ today. That means if you do have pre-existing lung disease, you’re at risk of having symptoms," said Matt Campen, Ph.D. with the UNM College of Pharmacy.
Those symptoms include more mucus, coughing, and even asthma attacks.
Campen said there are "Red Days" when the air quality is so bad that even healthy people could experience lung irritation. He’s concerned with the long-term impact of those smoky days.
"One of the things we saw last year, we were doing some studies with natural exposures during those California wildfires and we found that there was increased inflammation of these immune cells getting into the brain. We start to worry, then can that promote dementia and long-term Alzheimer’s-like diseases?" Campen said.
Campen said more wildfires in the western region of the country may increase in frequency during the next several years because of drought conditions. But there could be some relief on the way.
"During the summer when we have these monsoons, the rain, the moisture can pull those particles out of the air and really clean things up for us," Campen said.
The doctor said wearing face masks offers some level of protection, but the N95 masks offer better protection when it comes to air pollutants.