Air Pollution and Health
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Wayne Cascio

North Carolina Wildfire Health Effects Study: Adverse health effects of PM exposure in biomass smoke

MOHAMMED FAROOQUI (1), Robert Devlin (2), Martha Sue Carraway (2), Ana Rappold (2), M. Ian Gilmour (3), Ronald Williams (3), John Meredith (1), William Cleve (4), Kim McDonald (5), Dianne Marshburn(4), Susan Stone (2), Vasu Kilaru (2), Wayne Cascio(1)

(1) East carolina University, (2) USEPA, NHEERL, (3)USEPA, NERL, (4) Pitt County Memorial Hospital, (5) Pitt County Government

     Abstract Number: 365
     Last modified: November 9, 2009

     Preference: Poster Presentation
     Working Group: sq1

On June 1st 2008 a lightning strike in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife refuge in Eastern North Carolina (Hyde County), initiated a fast burning wildfire (Evans Road fire). It burned for two months destroying over 40,000 acres of southeast shrub bog. The Pocosin Wildfire is believed to have had a significant public health impact in this region resulting in challenges to health care facilities, allocation of resources, as well as probable increases in cardiac and pulmonary morbidity, and possibly mortality rates. On June 9th 2008, a contractor’s logging equipment caught fire and started another fire (South One Wildfire) in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife refuge. This fire burned for nearly 120 days and burned over 4,800 acres. Both fires affected some overlapping geographic areas. Particulate matter (PM) they produced significantly exceeded levels normally experienced in the area. This project, entitled “North Carolina Wildfire Health Effects Study”, is a retrospective observational study. We hypothesize that exposure to PM in biomass smoke is associated with increased hospital encounters (emergency department visits and admissions) for respiratory and cardiovascular complaints. To test this hypothesis, we will implement case crossover designs using conditional logistics regression, as well as Poisson regression of cases to exposure variables. Subject specific outdoor exposure levels will be defined by geocoding addresses to the spatial maps of ambient air PM levels for hospital admissions and at the county level for emergency department visits. Emergency department encounters will be obtained from the North Carolina Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT). Hospitalization data will be obtained from health data records of the University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina and the Veterans Administration. Environmental modeling of smoke pattern will be determined via environmental data from the US and State EPA agencies. The study is ongoing and its results may advance the understanding of health impacts resulting from exposure to PM from biomass burning. It may also inform future regional emergency response to events in which coordination among multiple hospitals is necessary. It will have important health implications for the population of eastern North Carolina, as well as help US EPA develop recommendations for the public and for susceptible populations in similar situations.

This is an abstract of a proposed presentation and does not necessarily reflect EPA policy.

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