University Of Tasmania
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Critical Review of Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke Exposure

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 19:57 authored by Reid, CE, Brauer, M, Fay JohnstonFay Johnston, Jerrett, M, Balmes, JR, Elliott, CT
BACKGROUND: Wildfire activity is predicted to increase in many parts of the world due to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns from global climate change. Wildfire smoke contains numerous hazardous air pollutants and many studies have documented population health effects from this exposure.

OBJECTIVES: We aimed to assess the evidence of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke and to identify susceptible populations.

METHODS: We reviewed the scientific literature for studies of wildfire smoke exposure on mortality and on respiratory, cardiovascular, mental, and perinatal health. Within those reviewed papers deemed to have minimal risk of bias, we assessed the coherence and consistency of findings.

DISCUSSION: Consistent evidence documents associations between wildfire smoke exposure and general respiratory health effects, specifically exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Growing evidence suggests associations with increased risk of respiratory infections and all-cause mortality. Evidence for cardiovascular effects is mixed, but a few recent studies have reported associations for specific cardiovascular endpoints. Insufficient research exists to identify specific population subgroups that are more susceptible to wildfire smoke exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: Consistent evidence from a large number of studies indicates that wildfire smoke exposure is associated with respiratory morbidity with growing evidence supporting an association with all-cause mortality. More research is needed to clarify which causes of mortality may be associated with wildfire smoke, whether cardiovascular outcomes are associated with wildfire smoke, and if certain populations are more susceptible.


Australian Research Council

British Columbia Government

Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

New South Wales Environment Protection Agency

Tasmania Fire Service


Publication title

Environmental Health Perspectives










Menzies Institute for Medical Research


US Dept Health & Human Services

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

Public domain 'Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives'

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified

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