Burned in the Amazonian forest: Your health may be in danger

amazon forest

(Yong Chuan, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Natália Federle, a 23 year old medical student in her third year in Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The Amazon is the largest biome in Brazil with a territory of 4,196,943 million km2 (IBGE, 2004), in addition, there is the largest watershed in the world: the Amazon Basin. In its grandeur, inhabit countless species of plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic animals and humans. Besides being the habitat of these living beings and being essential for the perpetuation of these populations, it interferes in the health of the man who inhabits places close to it, but also interferes in the health of the world population.

Its greatest importance is related to respiratory health, because the forest makes the process of evapotranspiration, whose event takes moisture and influences the rainfall regime in several regions of Brazil and neighboring countries. However, currently, the fires of the Amazon are influencing this process. By burning the trees, the CO2, which at high levels is toxic to the health of living beings, spreads. Particles of chemical compounds are released in large quantities and are suspended in the air, suitable for inhalation by humans. Moreover, the process of evapotranspiration ceases to occur, making the air dry, and hindering the respiratory process.

Smoke with its particles and dry air can cause harmful effects on man’s health. Ocular lacrimation, headache and dry cough are some of the symptoms caused by the smoke. Moreover, among the effects of burning are the inflammatory processes caused by inhalation of particles such as shortness of breath, rhinitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis. Also, due to frequent exposure to chemical particles, neoplasms may arise. All these diseases and symptoms are related to the population that lives near the areas of burning. But if we think about global health in general, the fires in the Amazon have a less immediate and direct influence on health, but still very important. The motive: Global warming!

Global warming means increasing the average temperature of the earth caused by the accumulation of pollutant gases, it can cause man respiratory and dermatological allergies, spread of diseases, among countless other evils. The human being, to have a healthy life, needs the protection of the ozone layer, so that the intense radiation does not reach it, moreover it needs that the temperature is not so high and that there is humidity in the air. The fires affect all this.

Therefore, thinking globally, the fires in the Amazon do not affect only the Brazilian people and the species of living beings that inhabit it. For those who live in distant countries of this immense forest, it seems that their effects will never reach them, but gradually the effects of global warming will become increasingly intense and will influence global health.

References

  1. Amazon [Internet]. Brazil: Ministry of Environment; [Cited in 2019 Aug. 31]. Available at: https://www.mma.gov.br/biomas/amazônia.html.
  2. Renata Turbiani. Smoke from burning is a threat to public health, alerting doctors [Internet]. Brazil: BBC; [Updated on 2019 Aug. 22; cited in 2019 Aug. 31]. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-49430367

About the author

Natália Federle is 23 years old and a third year medical student. She works as a local coordinator in IFMSA Brazil Unicesumar. She is part of two academic leagues: gastroenterology and pneumonology. Interested in how to make a medicine more humanized and focused on the individual as a unique being.

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