‘This Does Not Look Good for Children’: Fires Pose Risk to Young Lungs

“The wildfires blazing in the West could hinder developing lungs, worsen asthma and even lead to the condition in those who don’t have it but are genetically disposed to it.”

“SAN FRANCISCO — Ian MacDonald, a 14-year-old in Portland, Ore., got a treat from his parents the other day. He was allowed to go outside.

It was for less than five minutes. “I let him take out the garbage. We wore N95 masks,” said his father, Dr. Kelvin MacDonald, who has been insisting his family stay in the house as wildfires flare nearby. Dr. MacDonald is a pediatric pulmonologist, and he is concerned about the health risks to children from the ashen-thick air.

“It is unethical to expose them and find out what happens 50 years from now,” said Dr. MacDonald, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the Oregon Health & Science University. While the science is still emerging, he said, the thrust is already clear: “This does not look good for children.”

The fire that is breathing down the Pacific Northwest and parts of California poses particular peril to young lungs, and is especially acute for children with medical conditions like asthma, which afflicts one in 12 children. Their lungs can become so inflamed by the micro-particles that airways may close, creating — in extreme cases — mortal threat.”

Matt Richtel reports for the New York Times September 18, 2020.