Wildfire smoke exposure under climate change: impact on respiratory health of affected communities

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2019 Mar;25(2):179-187. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000552.


Purpose of review: In this review, we describe the current status of the literature regarding respiratory health related to wildfire smoke exposure, anticipated future impacts under a changing climate, and strategies to reduce respiratory health impacts of wildfire smoke.

Recent findings: Recent findings confirm associations between wildfire smoke exposure and respiratory health outcomes, with the clearest evidence for exacerbations of asthma. Although previous evidence showed a clear association between wildfire smoke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, findings from recent studies are more mixed. Current evidence in support of an association between respiratory infections and wildfire smoke exposure is also mixed. Only one study has investigated long-term respiratory health impacts of wildfire smoke, and few studies have estimated future health impacts of wildfires under likely climate change scenarios.

Summary: Wildfire activity has been increasing over the past several decades and is likely to continue to do so as climate change progresses, which, combined with a growing population, means that population exposure to and respiratory health impacts of wildfire smoke is likely to grow in the future. More research is needed to understand which population subgroups are most vulnerable to wildfire smoke exposure and the long-term respiratory health impacts of these high pollution events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Public Health / methods
  • Public Health / trends
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Smoke*
  • Wildfires*


  • Smoke