The House is on Fire: How to Protect Your Family’s Health in an Era of Increasing Wildfire Risk

The House is on Fire: How to Protect Your Family’s Health in an Era of Increasing Wildfire Risk

by Dr. Charny August 21, 2021

Fire Season can feel like a way of life

The increasing number of high-intensity wildfires in California and across the world are affecting millions of people, threatening lives and property, and raising a multitude of health risk concerns.

Wildfires send smoke, soot, toxic gases and tiny particles into the air. Once released into the atmosphere, these materials can be carried for hundreds of miles and affect communities far outside the fire danger zone.

Before the rapid industrialization of the previous centuries, smoke once contained only the remnants of biomass (trees and other organic matter). Today’s fires also burn man-made structures containing thousands of synthetic chemicals, asbestos, paints, plastics, and metals that smolder and combust into tiny particles. This is often referred to as particle pollution. Sometimes these particles are visible to the human eye and might make the air appear hazy. Often, however, they might not be detectable at all by the naked eye.

When inhaled, these compounds can be very harmful and may injure the lungs, causing cellular damage and fluid buildup in the areas around the lung tissues. When smoke enters the lungs, it triggers a defense mechanism that involves the release of chemicals called cytokines, which induce inflammation via oxidative damage. The initial inflammation of cells that line the lungs may be small, but it can lead to a body-wide inflammatory response. As a result, people exposed to particle pollution may develop an increased susceptibility to infections, and individuals with allergies may have worsened allergic reactions.

Small particulate matter enters the lungs and may cause significant respiratory symptoms. The particulate matter is also small enough to pass through the lung tissue and enter the bloodstream.

When the air quality is good, the small particulate matter levels are usually around 10 to 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3), but wildfires can increase this harmful pollutant to levels above 200 ug/m3.

Health problems related to wildfire smoke exposure can be as mild as respiratory tract irritation, headaches, and irritation of the eye, nasal, sinus, or throat. However, wildfire smoke exposure can lead to more serious adverse health reactions such as declining heart and lung function (including asthma), and even premature death.

What you can do

In heavy smoke exposure you should wear an N-95 disposable particulate respirator mask.

As smoke causes inflammation via oxidative damage, it is especially important to protect your immune system function with antioxidants.

  • Folic Acid, Vitamins B6 and B12

  • Vitamins C, E and D3

  • Selenium


  • Sulforaphane

  • NAC, Glutathione

  • Herbs: Green tea, ginger, and turmeric

Schedule Your Appointment Today

Want to look deeper into your immune and respiratory health, inflammation and detoxification? Dr. Charny can work with you to address your concerns.

Make an appointment today: 310-553-4242 or online here.

Dr. Charny
Dr. Charny

Keep reading

Become a patient

Schedule your in-person visit or online consultation today!

New Patients
  • Multi-Vitamin Elite $70.00