Riverton burns, over one week now

The fire continues to burn. It has been over a week now and the Medical Officer of Health is assuring us that there will be no long term effects. How does she know that? The results from the air tests have not even been returned to Jamaica yet. They were sent to Canada, which raises more questions- Why is there not somewhere closer to analyze the samples? With all that travel, can the integrity of the samples be guaranteed?. Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse is also urging people to stay inside with the windows closed. What about the people who live in homes with no windows or the homeless?

Other authorities are now urging people to wear masks, but a quick Google search shows that masks do little or nothing to protect our precious lungs from pollution from fires. From the American Lung Association: 

General Recommendations

  • Stay indoors: People living in close proximity to the fire-stricken areas should remain indoors and avoid inhalation of smoke, ashes and particulate matter in the area.

  • Don’t count on a dust mask: Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, will not help as they still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Special, more expensive dust masks with true HEPA filters will filter out the damaging fine particles, but are difficult for people with lung disease to use. Consult with your physician before using a mask, especially if you have a lung disease.

  • Don’t exercise outside: If you live close to or in the surrounding area, it’s recommended that you refrain from exercising outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or notice eye or throat irritation.

  • Take precautions for kids: Extra precaution should be taken for children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) per pound of body mass than adults.

  • Roll up your car windows: When driving your car in smoky areas, keep your windows and vents closed. Air conditioning should only be operated in the “recirculate” setting.

  • Put air conditioners on recirculate: Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and air cleaners. Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved into the room.

I am also hearing that a group of Canadian students were evacuated this week because of the smoke. I walked around for a couple of hours yesterday and felt fine. The smoke is still looming on the horizon, though, and depending on the wind, it seems to come and go, or at least the horrendous odour does. I just keep thinking about the people who live right near the dump, who have nowhere to go, no money for bus fare to go anywhere else, no money for a hotel, no running water to clean what food they have that is probably contaminated. What is anyone doing to help them?

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