According to health experts, the harmful effects of firestorm exposure will not go away once the wildfires are extinguished.
Breathing in small particles from wildfire smoke can cause cognitive impairment that persists for 6-12 months or years afterward.
not easy to fix
According to Dakshina Ramanathan, associate professor of residency in psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, people who are traumatized by natural disasters are different from other incidents like car accidents or sexual assaults.
“People see the environment as a refuge, a positive healer,” he explains. When something they consider positive suddenly turns against them, it comes as a shock to a lot of people.”
A study conducted after the California wildfires in 2018 found that more than 30% of people who were directly exposed to the fires had symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
“Individuals with indirect exposure, that is, people living in communities where wildfires occurred,” said Jyoti Mishra, author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry at UC-San Diego. Also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but to a lesser extent. In persons with direct contact.
“Inhaling the particles can cause an inflammatory response in the body. It affects the way the brain works. But how it affects brain activity is still a question,” Mishra said.
When the researchers looked at brain function underpinning specific cognitive functions, they found that increased activity in the left frontal lobe of the brain was more pronounced in people exposed to wildfires.
“The brain is over-processing all the stimuli coming to it. That’s what happens with a traumatized brain,” she explained.
Forest fire smoke particles cause encephalitis
Kent Pinkerton, MD, professor of pediatrics at the UC-Davis School of Medicine, who studies how vapors, gases, particles and fibers affect the respiratory system, said scientists have recently focused more on this research. How inhalation of small smoke particles affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. compared to the brain.
“Breathing through your nose during a fire is good because it acts as a filter and particles will collect in your nostrils and not deep in your lungs. However, the cells responsible for the sense of smell filter the particles.” Smoke goes into the brain and causes inflammation,” Pinkerton said.
According to Ray Dorsey, professor of neuroscience at the University of Rochester, toxic metals often linger on these tiny particles.
“If you look at the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, you see high concentrations of these toxic metals: lead, iron from brake pads, platinum from the catalytic converter. Perhaps they have crossed the blood-brain barrier. The nose may be the main gate for toxic metals entering the brain,” he said.
Paul E. Schultz, MD, professor of neurology and director of the Center for Neurocognitive Disorders at UTHealth Houston, warns that post-traumatic stress disorder is a major risk factor for post-traumatic dementia.