Smoke from prescribed burning can affect air quality both nearby and in downwind locations. The health of both humans and animals is affected by poor air quality. When wind transport conditions are right, smoke can impact urban areas and present a health risk to sensitive individuals. A major goal of the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan is to reduce the incidence of low-quality air events related to prescribed burning in the Flint Hills. Monitors in urban areas measure concentrations of ozone and particulate matter, the two major air quality concerns related to prescribed burning, between April 1 and October 31.
Smoke and Human Health
- Ozone and Your Health - EPA Fact Sheet - (PDF)
- Particulate Pollution and Your Health - EPA Fact Sheet - (PDF)
- Air Now - EPA
- Asthma Information - AAFA
- Asthma - CDC
- Kansas Asthma Burden Report.pdf
- Kansas Health Alert Network
KS-HAN is a secure, web-based electronic communication system that enables local and state emergency health and safety entities to share public and environmental health and general emergency preparedness information rapidly. Membership in KS-HAN is by invitation only.
Smoke and Animal Health
Most producers move their cattle to an area where they will not be affected by the smoke from pasture burning. Or, if cattle are located downwind, they are placed far enough away that smoke inhalation is minimized.
During natural wildfires, some animals continue to graze near the fire even when they have the ability and freedom to move a great distance away. They seem to know that if it is not approaching them directly, it is not a big problem.
- Wildfires, Smoke and Livestock - School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis (PDF)
The effects of smoke are similar for humans and livestock: irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, aggravation of chronic lung diseases, and reduced lung function. High concentrations of particulates can cause persistent cough, increased nasal discharge, wheezing and increased physical effort in breathing. Particulates can also alter the immune system and reduce the ability of the lungs to remove foreign materials, such as pollen and bacteria, to which livestock are normally exposed.
- Cattle escaping fire death may have secondary injuries - AgriLife Communications, Texas A&M University (PDF)
Inhalation of smoke causes immediate irritation to the lining of the respiratory system, including nasal passages, trachea and lungs (of animals). This can lead to inflammation, edema and emphysema, with the severity determined by the duration of inhaled smoke.
The time it takes to cause damage might only have to be a few minutes with high quantities of smoke and may be hours in low quantities of smoke. In addition, the lining of the eyelids and eyeballs can be irritated and lead to secondary infections causing additional illness or even death.