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Warning prescribed burns are deadly.

The smoke could be killing your children and grandparents!

In the early 1950's, everyone thought that the nuclear bomb tests in Nevada were a good idea until people begin dying from radiation poisoning. Today, we face a similar crisis. The U.S. Forest Service has convinced some people that prescribed burns and managed wildfires are good methods of maintaining forest health when they are actually two of the deadliest acts known to mankind. 


Health Risks of Prescribed Burns

The smoke emitted from prescribed burns and managed wildfires is unfiltered wood smoke that is extremely dangerous to unborn fetuses, infant children and elderly people. It even affects normal healthy people without warning. Wood smoke pollution is 12 times more carcinogenic than cigarette smoke, attacks the body cells up to 40 times longer, and kills at least 40,000 adults and children every year. It contains a toxic soup of more than 4,000 chemical compounds of harmful gases and particle matter that go deep in the lungs and kill people, 69 of which are known human carcinogens, including arsenic, particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, dioxin and various irritant gas such as nitrogen oxides that scar the lungs. There is no escape from the effects of prescribed burn smoke because the tiny particles and gases seep inside of homes reaching up to 70 percent of the outside pollution level. Warnings to stay inside on high pollution days are misleading and false. No one can escape the bad effects of prescribed burns.     


Exposure to prescribed burn smoke also increase children’s risk of lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and has been linked to psychological disorders and toxic damage to the nervous system and the brain in developing fetuses and young children. Unborn fetuses and infant children are 10 times more vulnerable to PAH damage than adults. The dagger shaped smoke particles are so tiny that they go deep into the child's lungs causing structural damage and chemical changes to the lung tissue. While some of the particles lodge deep in the child's lungs causing bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia, others pass through the lungs into the blood stream entering the child's systemic circulation causing organ failure and premature death. Studies show that prescribed burn smoke exposure can prevent the proper development of an unborn fetus, prevent the proper development of internal organs in infant children, depress the immune system, damage the nervous system, damage the brain, damage the layer of cells in the child's lungs that protect and cleanse the airways, and cause unexpected infant mortality. 


For vulnerable populations, such as elderly people, people with asthma, chronic respiratory disease and those with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, prescribed burn smoke exposure is particularly harmful, even short exposures can prove fatal. The American Lung Association recently published an annotated bibliography of recent studies of the health effects of air pollution linking wood smoke and air pollution with lung cancer, breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, congenital heart defects, asthma, and brain damage. They identify the elderly, diabetics, asthma patients, those with congestive heart failure being at increased risk.


Even normal healthy people are at risk. EPA studies show that exposure to prescribed burn smoke can cause cancer, strokes, and a variety of serious illnesses in normal healthy people without warning. The smoke contains cancer-causing compounds 12 times more powerful than cigarette smoke. The carcinogenic compounds attach to tiny smoke particles and ride them into the lungs and blood stream where they penetrate immune defenses and attack internal organs causing, strokes, heart failure, kidney failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and breast cancer in healthy people without warning. Symptoms may not appear for months or even years giving little or no warning until it is too late. 


The EPA studies are factual proof that prescribed burns are serious health hazards that kill people but the U.S. Forest Service refuses to listen. They argue that prescribed burns are good money makers for their budget and plan to continue their relentless campaign of death for the next 20 years or more.


Prescribed Burns - Money Makers Not Useful Tools

In the past, the U.S. Forest Service would burn a few hundred acres of forest land and debris each year causing little harm, but recently they have been burning thousands of acres daily while letting wildfires burn themselves out at the same time causing heavy smoke accumulations across the United States. The managed wildfires burn for weeks at a time filling the air with toxic smoke while prescribed burns add even more. The smoke lingers over populated areas for months at a time without dissipating ruining scenic views, decreasing property values, and killing people. Officials argue that fire is a necessary natural occurrence used to revitalize the forest in the past and should be continued today through prescribed burns and managed wildfires. Consequently, those alleged revitalization fires burned centuries ago in unpopulated areas having little or no effect on public health where the modern prescribed burns are done in populated areas endangering millions of people daily.


There is a better way. Unlike fires that kill trees, animals, and people, mechanical methods such as tree thinning and mulching machines remove only unwanted trees and brush grinding them into healthy mulch leaving the forest clean and healthy instead of burned and charred. Mechanical methods are cleaner, safer and properly maintain forest health while protecting the environment from air pollution, but officials argue that prescribed burns are easier, cheaper and increase their budget faster than other methods. In a recent interview, one Forest Service official stated that it is cheaper to burn than to use mechanical methods, admitting that budget money is their primary concern not human life. Another Forest Service official laughed when confronted about citizen health concerns and stated that they intend to continue burning as long as the weather permits regardless of any health concerns. Forestry officials are obviously more concerned about budget money and bad weather than public health and they clearly show a reckless disregard for human life.


Prescribed burns must be stopped.

Experts agree that prescribed burns and managed wildfires will have little or no impacts on future wildfire control or forest health but admit that they are public health hazards that could emit enough smoke pollution to kill thousands of people annually. Most people believe that it is happening now. The U.S. Forest Service has been burning thousands of acres daily while allowing hundreds of wildfires to burn themselves out causing massive air pollution across the United States. In short, they are burning too much too often without proper regulation causing excessive smoke accumulations over populated areas injuring millions of people. Smoke related illnesses are being reported in record numbers. Medical facilities are reporting increases in respiratory illnesses, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and more people are using oxygen than ever before. People are suffering in record numbers but forestry officials don't seem to care. They laugh and joke about our children's injuries and tell people to move if they don't like the smoke.


It is time to demand congressional action to stop the reckless pollution that is killing our children. Use the links below to contact your Senators and Congressmen and demand a stop to all funding for prescribed burns and managed wildfires in the United States.

Click here to find your U.S. Senator's contact information

 Click her to find your U.S. Congressmen's contact information

Click here to file complaints with other agencies



Clean Air Revival - Wood smoke causes premature deaths in developing fetus, newborns, and others.

Burning Issues - Wood smoke is more damaging than tobacco smoke.

Medical Effects - Wood smoke is chemically active and causes increased infant and prenatal mortality.

Environmental and Human Health, Inc. - Wood smoke is carcinogenic - short exposures can prove dangerous.

Healthy Living Spaces - The risk of premature death in cities with high fine particulate levels is 17% higher.

Washington State Dept. of Ecology - Wood smoke linked to deaths in fetuses, newborns, children, and elderly.

EPA Fast Facts - Smoke particles can travel long distances and kill people.

EPA - Smoke Particle Basic Information

Smoke Fact Sheet - Simple facts about wood smoke dangers.

Wood Smoke Causes Emphysema - A personal horror story about wood smoke.

Table of Wood Smoke Pollutant Health Effects

Smoke Particulates & the Courts

Archive for the Health Effects of Smoke

Other websites of interest:

Australian Website - Government puts forestry ahead of health. - Website showing graphic photos of wood smoke haze in Arizona.

Wood Burner Smoke - Cancer risk from wood smoke is twelve times greater than tobacco smoke

Take Back The Air - Grassroots organization dedicated to cleaning up the air.



Photographs of smoke and forest damage


New studies show prescribed burns linked to health risks of Californians


Legal & prescribed burns


Health warnings and bulletins


Playing With Fire by Liz O'Sullivan


Smoke & Mirrors by Liz O'Sullivan


Up In Smoke by Liz O'Sullivan


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Is this how you want your forest to look?

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 Small photograph showing the charred remains of a burned forest.




Imagine what it is doing to your child's lungs?

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 Image of prescribed burn smoke covering the West Phoenix, Arizona Valley.




If this much collects on a filter in two weeks, how much is in your child's lungs?

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 Image of prescribed burn smoke particles on a carbon filter.




The smoke is making people sick. How is that helping the public???

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 Photograph showing thick prescribed burn smoke covering Bishop, California.

Copyright 2012 Citizens Against Polluted Air (CAPA), All Rights Reserved