Burning Amazon rainforests: Darting towards the doom of Human Race

forest fires 9

(Matt Howard, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr Pranjal Garg, a second year medical student at All India Institute of Medical
Sciences, Rishikesh, India. He 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.

Thousands of fires are burning across the millions of hectares of Amazon rainforests in Brazil, having a devastating and destructive long-term effect not only on the health of the Earth but also of its inhabitants. Amazon rainforests provide at least 20% of the world’s oxygen, and are adequately called the ‘Lungs of the Earth.’

The wildfire smoke contains a mixture of gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, etc. and particulate matter produced from the burning of organic matter and wood. The wood smoke produces toxic air pollutants too like benzene, formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, etc. The smoke travels to far locations and can have a wide range of health problems from as trivial as runny nose to fatalities. The smoke affects badly from pregnant women and developing fetuses to older adults.

Amazon forests are one of the most vital and largest storehouses of carbon, burning of which will cause an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the environment. Currently, the direct implications might not be apparent but the increase in CO2 will replace oxygen, making it difficult for us to breathe causing headaches, restlessness, etc.

The indirect impact can be much profound as CO2 being one of the greenhouse gases induces an increase in temperature causing multitudes of effects on human health like increase in vector (ticks and mosquito) borne diseases  like malaria, dengue, elephantiasis, Lyme diseases, etc. and water-borne diseases like cholera. There can also be serious impact on mental health and anxiety due to climate change, the decrease in food safety and nutrition and severe heat waves which decreases productivity and increases morbidity and mortality. Heatwaves also exacerbate various chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic kidney diseases, cardiovascular diseases, etc.

The particulate matter including soot, tars, and other volatile organic substance produced by the burning can lodge and penetrate deep in the Lungs. This particulate matter affects the lungs and heart leading to the premature death of people with pre-existing heart or lung diseases, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, etc.

Produce from rainforests are used in various medicines like anti-malarial and anti-cancer drugs. Compounds from rainforest plants are used in drugs to treat hypertension, glaucoma, tuberculosis, etc. The destruction of Amazon rainforests will reduce the production of many drugs like these and can have a deep impact on global health.

Burning of Amazon forests also means disturbed weather patterns and the drier environment due to lesser contribution of transpiration and other factors that releases moisture in the air causing rainfall. Deficiency of rainfall, one of the main contributors to freshwater, will also have pernicious effect on global health.

This deplorable and dreadful incident has been declared as the international crisis and many political, environmental, academic and scientific associations and communities have shown their concern and will to stop these fires. With the speed with which we are destroying our forests, it is certain that we might have to start populating another planet by the end of this century.

About the author

Pranjal Garg is a second year medical student at All India Institute of Medical
Sciences, Rishikesh and has been an active member of Medical Student
Association of India, previously holding a position as Local Officer on Research
Exchange. Currently Pranjal is also pursuing a course in healthcare waste
management. He regularly takes part in conferences and has attended India
International Science Festival, Lucknow and has participated in National
Biomedical Research Competition 2018, AIIMS. Pranjal was a research
observer at Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad in January
2019 and has also been involved in volunteer work at a hospice.










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