Neuropsychiatric Manifestations of Wildfire Exposure
Introduction: Wildfires are life threatening incessant fires in thickly vegetated areas that may spread extremely rapidly to human habitat and is difficult to control by human force. One notable factor likely contributing to wildfires and is highly debated internationally is the climate change. The impact of wildfires is enormous on population health, both physical and mental, and causes tremendous financial burden to individuals and communities near and far from the wildfire site. The primary composition of wildfire smoke is carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, organic chemical, nitrogen oxides, and many other trace elements.
Aim: The aim is to understand the potential disease burden secondary to wildfires both at an individual and population level, particularly reflect upon the immediate and delayed neuropsychiatric manifestations from wildfire smoke exposure.
Methods: Data on wildfires associated direct and indirect costs on individual health and health care delivery and public health system appears to be scant. The effort on this presentation is to extract from federal sources, five-year i.e. 2012 to 2016 data on nationwide wildfires, estimated acreage consumed in wildfires, population exposed, and injuries and deaths. Data was extracted from National Interagency Fire Center, United States Fire Administration, and Federal Emergency Management Agency. Through literature review on neuropsychological sequelae of wildfires smoke inhalation and associated trauma, the goal is to reflect upon potential burden secondary to undiagnosed neuropsychiatric manifestations from wildfires.
Results: As per the National Center for Health Statistics, the national fire death rates from 2012 to 2016 ranged 10 to 11 per million population each year, and the property loss both residential and non-residential were in estimated range of 9 to 10 billion dollars each year. We know healthcare cost is expensive in the United States, and with these estimates one can only imagine the health care and public health system burden.
Discussion: The characteristic pathology of carbon monoxide toxicity is bilateral necrosis of Globus pallidus. Common neuropsychological symptoms of carbon monoxide toxicity may include fatigue, affective conditions, emotional distress, memory deficits, sleep disturbance, vertigo, neuropathy, dementia, and psychosis. These health effects open a discussion on the physical and mental sequelae of wildfire smoke inhalation and resulting disability. Wildfire prevention, containment, and limiting the healthcare consequences from smoke exposure should be part of primary health care education and clinical practice.