Where there's smoke there's cardiac risk?

SMOKE from peat bog wildfires poses a cardiac as well as respiratory health risk in exposed communities far from the fire front, a population-based study funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency has found.

Satellite imaging was used to track the plume caused by a wildfire in North Carolina in 2008, and a surge in hospital emergency cases was seen in exposed communities.

There was a 37% increase in patients with symptoms of heart failure and a 23% increase in those with cardiopulmonary symptoms during the eight days from first smoke exposure.

Patients with asthma were up 65%, those with COPD up 73% and those with pneumonia and bronchitis up 59%.

“This is the first study to demonstrate both respiratory and cardiac effects following brief exposure to peat wildfire smoke,” the authors said.

Environ Health Perspect 2011, online 27 June