July 6, 2021

Environmental Health and Safety Experts Warn of Post-Fire Hazards

Falls Church, Va. (July 7, 2021)— As different parts of the country are dealing with active wildfires and extreme temperatures, AIHA is offering resources on wildfire response, assistance, and recommendations for protecting the health and safety of residents and recovery workers. AIHA's Wildfire Disaster Recovery Center provides vital information on wildfire preparedness and recovery and the hidden dangers in the cleanup process that follows a devastating wildfire.

Data from Congressional Research Service show that since 2000, an annual average of 70,600 wildfires burned a yearly average of 7.0 million acres. In 2020, 59.000 wildfires burned 10.12 million acres and 17,904 structures. Fifty-four percent of these structures were residences.

Although wildfires cannot be eliminated, it is crucial to be prepared to avoid the potential health hazards such as overexposure to chemicals and cancer-causing ash that occur in the cleanup and recovery phase. As families return to their homes, their property must be tested and evaluated by a certified professional to make sure it is entirely safe.

Wildfires create health and safety hazards long after the fire has is extinguished. The remains that are left contain toxic and carcinogenic residue that can affect long-term health. Experts recommend that before the affected residents start to clean up or repair, they seek the advice of an occupational/ environmental health and safety scientist or industrial hygienist before returning to their property.

AIHA's Wildfire Disaster Recovery Center offers information on wildfires, including hazards that may be present during and after a wildfire incident, contacts for certified professionals that can help with property evaluation, and facts and figures to help people understand the scope of the challenges they face.

AIHA also offers recommendations designed to protect unpaid natural disaster response volunteers from COVID-19. The free guidelines also provide volunteers with information about how volunteer organizations operate during a response to severe natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and more.

About AIHA

AIHA is the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, networks, comprehensive education programs, and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional and competency standards. More than half of AIHA's nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed across the public and private sectors as well as to the communities in which they work. For more information, please visit www.aiha.org