A survey released by the scientific journal The Lancet Planetary Health last week (Wednesday (8)) indicates that the forest fires are directly and indirectly responsible for more than 47 thousand hospitalizations in Brazil each year. Episodes of asthma, heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary impairment and damage to mental health are some of the factors resulting from fires. 

Toxic smoke from the Amazon region can reach up to 2,5 kilometers in the atmosphere, traveling to various parts of the country. Image: Marcio Isensee – Shutterstock

According to the study, this picture is mainly due to PM2.5 particles present in the smoke. Small enough, they can pass through the alveoli in the lung walls and enter the circulation. 


To make matters worse, the research highlights that PM2.5 particles that come from forest fires are considered more toxic than those from urban fires. This is due to chemical composition and size, associated with higher temperatures. 

For this reason, any time of exposure to these fumes, no matter how small, is capable of compromising the health of the person who inhales them.

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How did the research on the effects of fires on the health of Brazilians take place?

According to Galileo magazine, the study was led by the School of Public and Preventive Health at Monash University in Australia. Through this research, professionals sought to quantify the impact based on forest fires, analyzing around 143 million hospitalizations that occurred in 1.814 Brazilian municipalities, surveyed by the Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS).

Thus, more than 80% of the Brazilian population was included in the study, which compared the data with PM2.5 levels in the air during the period of January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2015.

The work relates an increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) in PM2.5 particles from fires to a 0,53% increase in hospitalizations linked to direct exposure to pollutants from forest fires. 

This value is equivalent to 35 cases per 100 inhabitants per year, that is, more than 47 thousand hospitalizations as a result of pollution of fires. 

child hospitalized with asthma
The majority of patients hospitalized due to toxic smoke inhalation are children aged up to nine years and elderly people over 80. Image: Photographee.eu – Shutterstock

Profile of hospitalizations resulting from fires

According to the survey, in general, hospitalizations had a higher incidence among children up to nine years old and in elderly with more than 80.

In geographic terms, cities in the North, South and Center-West regions had the highest number of cases. It is important to point out that, although most forest fires occur in remote areas of the country, toxic smoke from the Amazon region can reach up to 2,5 kilometers in the atmosphere, traveling long distances and, thus, affecting people from various places from Brazil.

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