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Scientists expand research on air quality and health

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Since 2019, scientists at Oregon Tech have been studying the ability of Rogue Valley hospitals to treat patients with respiratory problems caused by wildfires.

Klamath Falls, Oregon — Scientists at Oregon Institute of Technology were recently awarded a $1 million federal grant. The grant could lead to research to improve health in southern Oregon from wildfire smoke.

Since 2019, a team of Oregon Tech scientists have been working in Rogue Valley to treat patients who arrived with respiratory problems during the wildfires when air quality plummeted. I have studied the capabilities of hospitals.

“For what’s called ‘purple’ where the air quality is very poor, there’s about a 70% chance that the hospital will exceed capacity,” says Kyle Chapman, associate professor of sociology and population health. . Speaking to Oregon Public Broadcasting, at the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Chapman and his colleagues plan to expand their focus to include hospitalizations due to heart disease experienced during wildfires, in addition to respiratory diseases such as asthma that wildfire smoke can exacerbate.

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“I feel like some of these other conditions that are related to heart disease, which is far more prevalent than chronic respiratory disease, also play a big role here,” he said.

Chapman said looking at changes in hospitalizations during wildfires could shift levels of staffing, similar to what is already happening in the summer when emergency room visits increase. says.

A federal grant will also allow scientists to install new monitors outside and inside Klamath Falls that can reveal chemicals in wildfire smoke. home and business.

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“Not only does it give a massive measure of the amount of smoke in the air, but it also gives an indication of potential hazards, such as where the smoke came from and what burned in the fire that produced it. Adelaide Clark, former Associate Professor of Chemistry at Oregon Institute of Technology and now a faculty member at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, said:

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s newly released wildfire smoke trends report, Klamath Falls had 38 days last year where air quality was found to be unhealthy for all groups of people. It ties with the city’s record set in 2018. .

If climate change makes wildfires more intense, extreme heat more common, and droughts longer lasting, new policies may need to be developed to protect public health from wildfire smoke. I can’t.

“We are experiencing a heatwave across the state that has significantly increased the use of our cooling centers,” Chapman said. “It might be a good idea to make sure that these cooling centers are also clean breathing centers.”