Experts warn of increase in diseases due to fires

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Experts in the areas of health and biology warned today of the risk of an increase and worsening of diseases due to fires, such as cancers, pulmonary fibrosis and other respiratory problems. Part of the negative effects may be noticeable only in the medium and long term.

The biologist and head of Biodiversity at Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation), Marcia Chame, stated that the heat caused by the fires can lead to lung burning, which, in turn, can generate fibrosis with long-term morbidity, for example. She stressed that not only people can be affected, but also wild and farmed animals.

Among the main problems mentioned are:

  • asthma
  • conjunctivitis
  • bronchitis
  • eye and throat irritation
  • cough and shortness of breath
  • stuffy nose
  • redness and skin allergies
  • Heart problems
  • emergence of cancer

Doctor and representative of Conass (National Council of Health Secretaries), Leonardo Moura Vilela said that, despite the relevant number of studies, there is some difficulty in isolating the causes and effects of pollution due to fires.

Even so, he stressed that soot contains potentially carcinogenic particles and, when they are inhaled, they can generate acute and chronic respiratory diseases over time, such as cancer itself.

“Children and the elderly are the ones who suffer most from this pollution caused by fires”, he said, citing that the municipality of Sorriso, in Mato Grosso, had particles suspended in the atmosphere in an amount four times greater than the maximum accepted by WHO (World Health Organization).

The statements were made during a temporary committee meeting in the Chamber of Deputies on burning in Brazilian biomes, with a focus on the Pantanal fires.

The member of the Working Group on Environment and Health of the Brazilian Association of Public Health, Marcelo Firpo, stated that the air pollution produced by the fires is related to the worsening of respiratory problems and to the increase in hospitalizations and deaths that could be avoided, if there were not the fires.

“People have respiratory problems, but fires aggravate these problems and intensify hospitalizations and deaths. Therefore, we say that they are preventable deaths,” he said.

Citing the coronavirus, Marcia Chame, from Fiocruz, warned about the impact of breaking the biological barrier of an infectious agent for the human population. So far, Brazil imports diseases, and does not export them. However, he stated that the destruction of ecosystems is a factor that can promote this break in the barrier.

She also drew attention to the possible migration of species to places not affected by fire and inhabited by humans or with agricultural activities. For example, increased rabies transmitted by bats and hantavirus by rodents.

At the meeting, participants considered that health promotion and surveillance cannot be overlooked, especially in times of the coronavirus pandemic. They asked for more resources for the SUS (Unified Health System) and the strengthening of the database, with investments in research.

The president of the National Health Council, Fernando Zasso Pigatto, took a stand against the spending ceiling and rejected a possible loss of R $ 35 billion in the SUS budget in 2021.

“What most unworthy us is this situation of turning the cattle to the natural, as if it had nothing to do with what is happening and, in addition to not reacting, they still make speeches that despise life. And we are here to talk about health, impacts on health. There is no way to ignore this issue “, he declared, criticizing the federal government.

As actions to prevent diseases and promote the health of affected populations, he defended the definition of a decentralized risk management plan with national coordination and the joint production of protocols, instruments and technical standards based on the articulation between epidemiological surveillance with other agencies, in addition to producing indicators for monitoring and assessing the health of the affected population.

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