The impact of smoke from wildfires on the heart and lungs

Henry Gomez was awarded a travel grant for the best abstract in a Healthy Lungs for Life topic submitted to the ERS Congress 2022.

Each year, ELF gives an award to the ERS Congress abstract that is the most newsworthy in the areas covered by the topics of the Healthy Lungs for Life (HLfL) campaign: #BeSmokeFree, #BreatheCleanAir, #Vaccinate, #TaketheActiveOption, and this year #FightClimateChange.

This is to help researchers consider topics that can be used in the media to raise the profile of lung health. This year, 39 abstracts were considered for the award. The winning abstract is outlined below.


What did the study look at?

This study looked at the effects of smoke from wildfires (called landscape fires in this study) on the heart and lung health of those exposed. The study examined small particles found in the smoke from wildfires and the impact that they had on mice with asthma.

What did the results show?

When the mice with asthma breathed in particles from the smoke, there was a reduction in gas diffusion in their lungs. This is when oxygen moves from the lungs to the bloodstream and carbon dioxide moves from the blood to the lungs. A reduction in this gas exchange can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and feeling tired or confused.

The smoke also changed normal immune responses in the lungs of the mice, making their airways overly responsive and their asthma worse.

Why is it important?

One of the impacts of climate change on lung health is an increase in the number and size of wildfires.

Wildfires affect millions of people globally and are becoming frequent and extreme. During wildfires, people are often admitted to hospital with breathing and heart problems. It is important to understand how wildfire smoke affects the heart and lungs to develop strategies to better protect people.

These results will help scientists to better understand how wildfire smoke contributes to and causes health issues in the heart and lungs. This is particularly important for people with health conditions such as asthma.

Further information