Approaches and challenges to connecting exposure to air pollution from wildland fire emissions to cardiopulmonary health outcomes

Authors: Nancy French1, Colleen Reid2, Patricia D. Koman Anthony3, Sumi Hoshiko, Jeffrey Johnson5, Shiliang Wu1, Michael Billmire, Justine Hutchinson4, Kurtis Anthony4, Brian Thelen1, R. Chris Owen1, Benjamin Koziol1, Jessica McCarty, Marie O’Neill3
Author Affiliations: 1Michigan Technological  University; 2University of Colorado Boulder; 3University of Michigan School of Public Health; 4California Department of Public Health; 5San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency

Particulate matter from wildland fire smoke has been associated with a variety of acute human respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Investigations to address the role of particulate and ozone pollution coming from wildfire smoke for human health is complicated by several spatial data and modeling challenges that we review in this presentation. We present information related to three aspects of the problem set. First, we review the state of wildland fire emissions and smoke modeling relevant to air quality and exposure assessment; second, we discuss challenges of geospatial environmental modeling with regard to air pollution exposure, including scale and confounders for assessing the relationship between smoke and health outcomes; and third, we review health outcome data sets used in quantifying wildfire pollution concentration-response functions and the spatial information gaps inherent in these data. To demonstrate the problem set, we review a study sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health Initiative that used models of wildland fire emissions and atmospheric transport to assess population health outcomes using syndromic surveillance data obtained during the 2007 San Diego County wildfires. This poster reviews the initial study that included creation of the smoke exposure maps and development of modeling methods to associate emissions of particulate matter from wildland fires to respiratory health outcomes, as well as follow-on studies that linked the exposure maps to health outcomes using the richer health data from California Department of Health Care Services Medi-Cal claims files. This research serves as an example of how complex process-based models of fire emissions and smoke dispersion can be combined with a statistical modeling approach to determine realistic expectations of health outcomes and assess the impact fire could have on human health during past, current, and future wildland fire events.

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