Impact of 2002 Canadian forest fires felt 700 miles away in Baltimore, Maryland

December 02, 2004

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed how airborne particulate matter from forest fires in the Canadian providence of Quebec traveled more than 700 miles to homes in Baltimore, Md. The study authors found a dramatic increase in outdoor and indoor fine particulate matter - an atmospheric pollutant that is harmful to people with respiratory diseases- in Baltimore during the first weekend of July 2002, which coincided with several forest fires in Quebec. The same fine particulate matter that the authors found to be transported across large distances readily penetrated people's homes where they spend most of their time. The researchers believe this should be a public health concern because fine particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs. The study is published in the current online issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

"This study provides a dramatic example of the significance that global air pollution has, not only on the outdoor air quality in our communities, but on air quality indoors where even the most susceptible among us look for protection," said Timothy J. Buckley, PhD, MHS, associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the study's senior author.

The researchers used satellite images, trajectory models, light detection and ranging measurements to track emissions from the Canadian forest fires to levels of particulate matter in Baltimore. During the peak of the episodes, ambient PM 2.5 levels increased eight-fold from 25 ug/m3 to 199 ug/m3 on July 7, 2002. The EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard was exceeded on this particular day. Indoor levels closely tracked the outdoor concentrations, indicating that being indoors at home offered little protection from the pollution episode. At the peak of the episode, PM2.5 levels as high as 366 ug/m3 were recorded inside.

The researchers said that their study is a stark example of how air pollution can impact vulnerable individuals in communities hundreds of miles away. In light of the reported findings, the study authors suggest that health advisories that encourage people to stay indoors during high particulate matter events should be reviewed.

"Although the source discussed in this study is natural, similar analogies can be drawn about the long-range transport of pollutants from man-made sources. This underscores the point we have long realized - air pollution is both a local and global issue. In addition to working locally, we need to bring other countries together to tackle the issue of transcontinental transport of air pollution," said Amir Sapkota, PhD, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health Sciences.
-end-
The study was supported by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and Johns Hopkins Center for Urban Environmental Health.

Amir Sapkota, J. Morel Symons, Lu Wang, Patrick N. Breysse and Timothy J. Buckley, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-authored the study. Additional co-authors were Jan Kleissl, Marc B. Parlange, John Ondov, Gregory B. Diette and Peyton A. Eggleston.

For the latest public health news or to receive news releases from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health via email, visit www.jhsph.edu/PublicHealthNews. Photographs of Timothy Buckley and Patrick Breysse are available upon request.

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Related Air Pollution Articles from Brightsurf:

How air pollution affects homeless populations
When air quality worsens, either from the smoke and ozone of summer or the inversion of winter, most of us stay indoors.

Exploring the neurological impact of air pollution
Air pollution has become a fact of modern life, with a majority of the global population facing chronic exposure.

Spotting air pollution with satellites, better than ever before
Researchers from Duke University have devised a method for estimating the air quality over a small patch of land using nothing but satellite imagery and weather conditions.

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is associated with growth delays
A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has found an association between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and delays in physical growth in the early years after birth.

Nearly half of US breathing unhealthy air; record-breaking air pollution in nine cities
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on lung health is of heightened concern.

Air pollution linked to dementia and cardiovascular disease
People continuously exposed to air pollution are at increased risk of dementia, especially if they also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

New framework will help decide which trees are best in the fight against air pollution
A study from the University of Surrey has provided a comprehensive guide on which tree species are best for combating air pollution that originates from our roads -- along with suggestions for how to plant these green barriers to get the best results.

Air pollution is one of the world's most dangerous health risks
Researchers calculate that the effects of air pollution shorten the lives of people around the world by an average of almost three years.

The world faces an air pollution 'pandemic'
Air pollution is responsible for shortening people's lives worldwide on a scale far greater than wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and insect-born diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and smoking, according to a study published in Cardiovascular Research.

Air pollution in childhood linked to schizophrenia
Children who grow up in areas with heavy air pollution have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Read More: Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.