Smoke study

first_imgBy Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaAll across the United States, prescribed fires are set to promote forests’ health. But nobody can say how the air pollution from them affects the people in homes downwind from them and the firefighters who set and control the fires. A University of Georgia expert is finding out.A prescribed fire is any fire intentionally set to meet land-management objectives, such as reducing fuels on the forest floor or helping restore ecosystem health.Each year about 80,000 firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service do about 70,000 prescribed burns on about 2 million acres, said Luke Naeher, an environmental health scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He wants to know the health risks of these fires.Health risks”There are several pieces to our study,” he said. “But what we want to determine are the short- and long-term health risks associated with exposure to the smoke of these fires … if the health-related problems are reversible.”Naeher focuses on particulate matter, or the dust and unburned organic matter in the air during a fire. It’s well established, he said, that particulate matter can cause severe and chronic health problems in humans’ respiratory systems.”We’re most concerned with fine (particles), the size of human hair or smaller,” he said. “They penetrate the deepest into the lungs and are believed to have the most impact on health.”In this year’s prescribed-fire season, January through April, Naeher and his team monitored the respiratory systems of firefighters doing prescribed burns at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. (The SRS was built in the 1950s to produce materials for nuclear weapons. It became a national environmental research park in 1972.)Smoke’s effectsNaeher checked the fighters before and after their fire shifts. He wanted to know how the smoke affected their respiratory functions, including their lung capacity and how quickly they could empty their lungs, he said.Data from the study will help fire-crew chiefs come up with better ways to protect firefighters. In the coming years, Naeher hopes to develop and use less intrusive monitoring equipment and techniques. Biomarkers could be used to test urine and blood for exposure levels.Fire managers must coordinate carefully with the state and federal agencies that monitor smoke and air pollution in an area for prescribed burns. But smoke management isn’t an exact science. A slight shift in the wind could cause major problems for communities downwind.Effects downwindNaeher is also monitoring carbon monoxide and particulate levels downwind from the burns. He wants to better understand how forest-fire smoke affects people a half-mile and six miles away.This will help fire managers plan safer fires. It will shed light, too, on the health risk of wildfires, like the ones that often hit the western United States in summer.”We’re studying the issues related to forest fires and related worker and community smoke exposure through a number of studies,” Naeher said. “All of (them) are aimed at filling existing data gaps.”The U.S. Forest Service funds this study. Both the firefighter and the community parts of it will continue for several more years.(Brad Haire is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img read more

Martinez calm over Mirallas miss

first_imgEverton manager Roberto Martinez insists there is no issue with Kevin Mirallas missing a penalty which should have been taken by Leighton Baines. Baines has missed just one of his 16 spot-kicks for the Toffees but allowed Mirallas to have the honour against West Brom and watched as the Belgium international hit the outside of the post a minute before half-time. It was arguably Everton’s only chance in the goalless draw and a perfect opportunity to end a run of eight matches without a win but Martinez refused to apportion any blame. “He is the number one penalty-taker but if it has been the other way around and Leighton says no, the issue would be why Kevin was not allowed take the penalty. “We are a team that is very together. I expect a few players to be able to take penalties and convert them. “If you play this game 10 times it would be nine wins for us and one draw for West Brom. That is the moment we are in.” The situation was compounded by MIrallas’ withdrawal at half-time but Martinez dismissed any conspiracy theories. “When he gets into half-time and the body temperature changes he felt his hamstring was starting to give him a bit of a problem,” he said. “He has been carrying a problem in that area and that is why he didn’t start against Manchester City and West Ham. “He felt 100 per cent today but at half-time he felt that hamstring was starting to give him a bit of a problem and he wasn’t 100 per cent to start the second half.” West Brom manager Tony Pulis made it three matches unbeaten since taking over earlier this month and they have yet to concede a goal under him. “It was a resilient performance, the lads worked really hard,” said the Baggies boss, who revealed he will speak to chairman Jeremy Peace about whether to make an improved £4million bid for Wigan forward Callum McManaman. “We had good shape at times. We have to be better on the ball and it doesn’t come overnight. The midfielders gave the ball away too cheaply at times and they are good players. “We need to get good passes off to get us up the pitch. It was a fantastic effort, showing good resilience and I am really pleased.” “Kevin took the first penalty against West Ham in the (FA Cup) penalty shoot-out last Tuesday,” said the manager. “Normally Leighton takes the penalties but we have a few players in the squad capable of taking them. “Kevin has the quality and personality as an international footballer and is well capable of scoring penalties. “Leighton was quite happy to let him take it because he felt confident and right in that moment. “There is no big issue in that. It became an issue because he couldn’t find the back of the net.” Team-mates Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku appeared to try to tell Mirallas to hand the ball over to Baines but he refused, prompting England assistant manager Gary Neville, summarising for Sky, to label his actions “despicable” for going against team orders. But Martinez said that did not indicate disharmony within the squad. “Not really. If Leighton Baines is the one who wants to take the penalty he will take it,” he added. Press Associationlast_img read more