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B.C. wildfires may be linked to 10% higher chance of brain tumours

New study finds higher incidence of lung cancer and brain tumours due to wildfire exposures
The White Rock Lake wildfire in North Okanagan is shown burning during the 2021 B.C. wildfire season. (Terry Lawson/Facebook)

Living in a wildfire-prone area may greatly increase your risk of cancer and brain tumours, says a new study out of McGill University.

In a first-of-its-kind research to probe the connection between the two, the study found a higher incidence of detrimental health in those exposed to wildfire.

Published in the Lancet Planetary Health on May 1, research shows that people living within a 50-kilometre radius of wildfires over the past ten years have a 10 per cent higher chance of developing a brain tumour and a 4.9 per cent higher chance of lung cancer.

More than 1,600 wildfires burned throughout B.C. during the 2021 wildfire season, razing close to half-a-million hectares of land. The largest, the Sparks Lake fire, reached close to 100,000 hectares and spread smoke throughout much of the B.C. Interior.

Jill Korsiak, a Ph.D student involved in the study, said that many of the pollutants in wildfire smoke are known human carcinogens.

The study adds that while most of these carcinogens dissipate after the fire is out, other pollutants like heavy metals linger for long after.

“Wildfires tend to happen in the same locations each year, but we know very little about the long-term health effects of these events,” said Associate Professor Scott Weichenthal, a co-author of the study.

During wildfire season, B.C. Wildfire Service advises those with chronic conditions to have rescue medication available at all times, avoid physical overexertion, and stay hydrated to help the body deal with inflammation.

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Jake Courtepatte

About the Author: Jake Courtepatte

Editor of Kelowna Capital News & West K News since February 2022. I have spent the majority of my career working in the Toronto area as both a sports reporter and a general reporter.
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