Harmful particles from forest fires: everyday objects polluted for a long time

Harmful particles from forest fires: everyday objects polluted for a long time

More and more Quebecers are being exposed to wildfires and their smoke, which contains chemicals that can be harmful to health and remain for weeks on everyday objects, according to one researcher.

That's what Elliot Gall, an associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Portland State University, found in a study published Tuesday.

So the researcher looked at how long harmful chemicals in wildfire smoke remain on certain surfaces and the most effective ways to remove them.

Forest fires produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are formed during the combustion process at high temperatures.

“It is associated with a wide range of adverse long-term health consequences, such as cancer, potential pregnancy complications and lung disease,” he explained. If these compounds settle or stick to surfaces, there are different routes of exposure that people should be aware of.

Therefore, the professor observed the retention of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on glass, cotton, and air filters. It took 37 days for PAHs to decrease by 74% in air filters, by 81% in cotton, and by 88% in glass.

However, cleaning cotton clothing or glasses made it possible to reduce the presence of PAHs more quickly by 80% and between 60 and 70%, respectively.

Conversely, cleaning air filters will not be sufficient and consideration should be given to replacing them after a wildfire.

“Although these hydrocarbons still have a potential lifespan, over time they can separate from the filter and be re-emitted into the ambient air,” Mr. Gall stressed.

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About the Author: Hermínio Guimarães

"Introvertido premiado. Viciado em mídia social sutilmente charmoso. Praticante de zumbis. Aficionado por música irritantemente humilde."

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