Study: People who live near wildfires have increased cancer risk | iNFO news

FILE PHOTO – Thick smoke from wildfires over Kamloops can be seen in this undated file photo. A new study shows that people who live within a 50-kilometre radius of wildfires in the past 10 years have a higher chance of developing brain tumors and lung cancer.

(Jennifer Stein/

May 13, 2022 – 12:30 PM

A new study shows that people who live within a 50-kilometre radius of wildfires in the past 10 years have a higher chance of developing brain tumors and lung cancer.

The McGill University study tracked more than 2 million Canadians over a 20-year period, and is the first to look at how close proximity to wildfires affects cancer risk, according to a university press release.

“Wildfires tend to occur in the same locations every year, but we know very little about the long-term health effects of these events. Our study shows that living near wildfires may increase the risk of some cancers,” says Scott Wieschenthal, Professor McGill University Epidemiology, in press release.

Read more: BC Wildfire Service is ‘carefully monitoring’ areas of Kamloops, Kelowna this month

The study was recently published in The Lancet Planetary Health and showed that people who live within 50 km of wildfires in the past 10 years have a 10% higher incidence of brain tumors and 4.9% higher incidence of lung cancer, compared to people who live far away.

“Many pollutants emitted by wildfires are known to be human carcinogens, suggesting that exposure could increase the risk of cancer in humans,” says Jill Korsiak, a doctoral student in Professor Weichenthal’s lab who led the analysis in the release.

Wildfires typically occur in similar areas each year, and as a result, people living in nearby communities may be exposed to cancer-causing wildfire pollutants on a chronic basis, according to the researchers.

Read more: Nicola Thomson managers are frustrated by the lack of answers from the BC Wildfire Service regarding the 2021 wildfire

In addition to the effects on air quality, wildfires also pollute aquatic life, soil, and indoor environments. While some pollutants return to their normal concentrations soon after the fire stops, other chemicals may remain in the environment for extended periods of time, including heavy metals and hydrocarbons, according to the study.

“Exposure to harmful environmental pollutants may persist beyond the period of active burning through several routes of exposure,” Weichenthal says.

More research is necessary to understand the complex mix of environmental pollutants released during wildfires, according to the researchers. They also noted that more work is needed to develop more long-term estimates of the chronic health effects of wildfires.

Read more: Cattle help manage wildfire risk in British Columbia through targeted grazing

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2022-05-13 19:30:30

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