Study reveals link between landscape fires and increased child hospital visits

January 9, 2024
trees burned by wildfire

A recent study conducted in the Manhiça district of Mozambique, an area prone to frequent forest and cropland fires, has revealed a significant association between exposure to landscape fire smoke and increased hospital visits among children.

The research published in The Lancet Planetary Health, titled “Associations between landscape fires and child morbidity in southern Mozambique: a time-series study,” was carried out over an eight-year period from 2012 to 2020.

It primarily focused on fire-originated particulate matter (PM 2.5) from smoke dispersion hindcasts and assessed total and upwind fire exposure using daily satellite-derived fire density data​​.

Key findings of the study on landscape fires

The findings of the study are striking. Researchers discovered that a 10 µg/m³ increase in fire-originated PM 2.5 was linked to a 6.12% increase in all-cause hospital visits and a 12.43% increase in respiratory-linked hospital visits on the following day.

These associations were also noted for the same day (lag 0) and the cumulative lag of 0–1 days.

Interestingly, no associations were observed for hospital admissions.

The study also noted that the landscape fires mostly occurred in forested areas, but the associations with child morbidity were stronger for cropland fires compared to forest fires​​​​.

Significance and interpretation

The study’s results underscore the significant impact landscape fire smoke can have on child health, particularly in regions like Mozambique where air pollution monitoring is limited.

The stronger association of cropland fires with hospital visits, compared to forest fires, suggests a need for targeted interventions in such areas.

The research team emphasized the importance of improved exposure assessment to better quantify the contribution of landscape fire smoke to child health​​​​.

FSJA Comment

This study is a crucial addition to the body of knowledge on environmental health, particularly in low-resource settings like southern Mozambique.

It highlights the often-overlooked impact of landscape fires on children’s health.

The findings stress the need for enhanced monitoring of air quality and the implementation of health protection strategies in areas prone to landscape fires.

Furthermore, the study provides a framework for similar research in other regions, enabling a better understanding of the global impact of environmental factors on child health.

The identification of stronger associations with cropland fires opens avenues for focused interventions in agricultural regions, potentially mitigating the risk to child health.

About the Study

The study was conducted in the Manhiça district of Mozambique, an area characterized by frequent forest and cropland fires.

Over an eight-year period, the research team analyzed the association between exposure to landscape fire smoke and child hospital visits.

Utilizing a robust methodological approach, including quasi-Poisson regression models and comprehensive data on fire-originated PM 2.5, the study offers valuable insights into the environmental determinants of child health in semi-rural African settings.

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