Respiratory Issues Rise in Brazil, May Be Linked to the Amazon Forest Fires

The fires have been raging for weeks, billowing clouds of black smoke into the air.
Fabienne Lang

As the Amazon forest's fires rage on for weeks, Brazilians voice their concerns over an increase in respiratory problems, especially in the young and the elderly. 

The state of Rondônia has been hit the hardest, as the fires are mostly concentrated in this region. 


The local Cosme e Damia Children's hospital in Brazil has seen an increase in the number of people complaining about respiratory issues in the past few weeks. 

The link between fires and respiratory issues

"The kids are affected the most. They're coughing a lot," said nurse Elane Diaz, from the state of Rondônia's capital, Porto Velho. This coughing could lead to serious health issues. 

Daniel Pires, pediatrician and adjunct-director of the Cosme e Damia Children's hospital told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, "This period has been very tough. The dry weather and the smoke causes many problems on children, such as pneumonia, coughing, or secretion." 

Pires continued: "From Aug. 1 to Aug. 20, the median (number) of cases was about 120 to 130 children with respiratory problems. From Aug. 11 to (Aug. 20) it went up to 280 cases." 

Not just the lives of children at risk

With the fires burning on, it's not simply children's lives that are at risk. As the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon is a huge absorber of carbon dioxide, which is considered critical in battling rising temperatures and other climate change-related worldwide issues. 

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The immediate issue for the people living in and around the area is the link to respiratory problems, due to repeated and long-term smoke inhalation. If the exposure becomes chronic, it can even lead to pulmonary illnesses, which include lung emphysema.

The long-term effects of the burning forest will be felt around the world, but at the moment, it's the people of Brazil who are feeling it the most.

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