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May 19, 2011

Healthy Living explores the effects of the smog on the respiratory system

The smoke from forest fires has been persistent for weeks and continues to drift from the west. It’s a normal occurrence in the dry season, but the inferno raging in the Cayo District has been the worst in recent years. We reported earlier this week on some health risks, particularly for students exposed to the smoke and the smell during school hours. And today’s Healthy Living goes into further detail with two specialists on how the smoke can affect residents, especially those with respiratory problems.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

February to mid-June is the unofficial fire season in Belize. According to the Forest Department, the fires this year have doubled last year’s and exceeded previously recorded numbers. Although the fires happen annually, the health implications became highlighted when due to wind patterns the smoke descended on Belize City for a day. We checked in with two specialists to find out more about what the effects on our health.

Victor Rosado

Dr. Victor Rosado, Pediatrician

“We are assuming that we are having especially in Belize city is from forest fires, a few years ago it was from the garbage dump and the smoke form the garbage dump defiantly poses additional risks cause you have added carcinogens in the air in along with the sticks and metals being burned. In terms of long terms risks that is what you’d look for, are there any carcinogens in the air. In terms of carbon monoxides from forest fires I think that poses more a short term risk. Respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, asthma attacks, pink eye: conjunctivitis, sinusitis. Those are more acute infections.”

Dr. Fernando Cuellar, Internist/Intensivist

“It will affect your nostrils, your nose causing irritation there, a sensation of stuffiness and wanting to sneeze and of course the mouth the throat it can lead to different sensation of irritation and coughing and so forth when it comes to the upper airwaves.”

Essentially the people who are most vulnerable would be those with respiratory illnesses.

Dr. Victor Rosado

“This poses a risk for people who have chronic respiratory illness especially children, the size of their airways children and elderly. We’re talking about asthma, bronchitis, emphysema; those are patients would definitely have higher risk of having an attack.”

Dr Rosado, emphasizes that parents of asthmatics should have a proper “asthma action plan”.

Dr. Victor Rosado

“These parents should know what to do where to access care in terms of a crisis and obviously you should make sure that you have enough medication that your asthma pump is working that you have access to an emergency room that you are aware that the risks of having an attack on these days.”

As for non-asthmatics, it is still important to stay away from irritants.

Fernando Cuellar

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“Well try to stay indoors as much as possible. To get out of the outside and perhaps be in air conditioned area as much as they can. The more you’re exposed to it the worse for you. It’s not just a short term thing. We hope that the winds shift and that you can contain it as much as possible.”

If you must be outdoors in the smoke for a prolonged period of time, it is advisable to use a mask and sunglasses as a means of protection. With the rainy season approaching, the issue of forest fires will soon become passé. But, as Dr Rosado explains, air quality should be a year round issue of importance.

Dr. Victor Rosado

“I think that rather than going down there we need to take a good luck at our city and how it has grown in the past twenty years, have we created any new parks, have we planted any new trees, do we have enough green areas, how many new areas have introduce in the city. Do we need to check the exhaust pipes of these big diesel buses? I think subjectively we all agree that the quality of the air has been decreasing but for us to take those actions, definitely we’d need to asses it objectively.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Healthy Living explores the effects of the smog on the respiratory system”

  1. Dennis says:

    I think if the people have a concern in Belize City I think they should be in the Cayo District for a day or 2. I think being in an Air Condintioned Room helps but i am thinking about Air Purifiers. The Air in AC and outside smells like Pine mixed with Kerosene. Is there a way not to start one single fire until we have had about 10 inches of rain?

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