Wildfire Smoke: What Could You Be Inhaling?

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Wildfires are no laughing matter. If you’re in an area that is threatened by wildfires, there are numerous safety concerns you need to be aware of. One that many people tend to overlook, given the immediate danger presented by the flames themselves, is the danger of wildfire smoke.

Inhaling smoke from a raging wildfire is extremely bad for you, and for more reasons than you might realize. Here are just a few things that could be in wildfire smoke that could cause you serious harm.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is the most common gas emitted from organic material when it’s burned. Inhaling CO is extremely damaging to your health. Because it can be odorless, carbon monoxide inhalation is extremely dangerous. Often, victims might not realize that they’re inhaling a harmful gas that is causing damage to their internal organs.

Carbon monoxide inhalation can result in forgetfulness, confusion, dizziness, loss of hearing and vision, and, eventually, death. Carbon monoxide is extremely poisonous to humans, and prolonged exposure can cause lasting damage to your internal organs, even if you survive the encounter.

Benzene

Wildfires don’t just burn trees and wild animals as they carve a deadly path: they burn homes, cars, and factories, too. Benzene is a major concern in wildfires that have burned down industrial areas, as this gas can present a number of health hazards for humans. Short-term exposure can result in dizziness, headaches, eye and respiratory irritation, and even unconsciousness.

Long-term exposure can lead to various disorders in the blood and even disorders with reproductive organs.

Heat

This might sound obvious, but it’s worth pointing out: wildfire smoke still contains all the heat of the fire. Whether the blaze is nearby or raging miles away, wildfire smoke can trap heat and carry it for miles. As such, inhaling plumes of wildfire smoke doesn’t just expose you to a host of potentially harmful gasses, it could also result in serious burns in your respiratory tract.

These burns have been known to be serious enough to cause hospitalization and even death in some victims. The truth is, you don’t need to be anywhere near a fire for it to hurt you.

Bottom Line

Heed any air quality warnings you receive for your area, and be ready to evacuate to escape a fire at any time. Most of all, be careful about inhalation. You never know what harmful gasses you might be taking into your body when you breathe in a lungful of smoke.