Fire season to cause respiratory disease spike in the Amazon

amazon fires respiratory disease
Amazon forest fire. Photo: MemoryMan/Shutterstock

Amid an increase in deforestation in the Amazon this year, compared to the first quarter of 2019, the Amazonian Institute of Environmental Research (Ipam) has warned of a bump in respiratory disease cases as a result of the ongoing burning of deforested areas.

According to Ipam, there are currently 1.11 million acres of deforested land “ready to be burned” as of the end of June, in what is known as the Amazon “fire season,” when loggers burn large deforested areas to clear land for agriculture and cattle use. As previously reported by The Brazilian Report, the loosening of environmental protections by Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has contributed to an increase of deforested areas in the Amazon in 2020.

Fires will strongly increase the air pollution in the Amazon region, leading to higher numbers of respiratory disease cases and the overburdening of the public health system in a region already on the brink of collapse due to high Covid-19 figures. In 2019, municipalities that registered the highest number of forest fires showed, on average, a 53-percent increase in air pollution in comparison to the same period in 2018.

“Curbing deforestation and fires this year is, beyond an environmental protection measure, a public health measure as well,” said Ipam Researcher Paulo Moutinho.

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