Breathe success not smoke

Post by Pete Mead

In Laramie, forest fire smoke travels inside undetected carrying harmful pollutants.

I am a Physiology major and a track athlete at the University of Wyoming and have gotten to learn and experience many of the effects of forest fire smoke. Often in the fall Laramie is affected by wildfire smoke from surrounding areas which causes the air quality to drop significantly (Wolfson J.et al). Unfortunately going inside is not the answer, as often it can be equally or more dangerous than being outside. To do something about this, a combined effort from indoor gyms and practice facilities will be needed to fight these effects.

Two firefighters stand at attention in full gear while fire engulfs several pine trees behind them.

(Fire in Pinedale, Wy 2018)

Image credit:© Matt Mead 2018
Two firefighters stand at attention in full gear while fire engulfs several pine trees behind them. (Fire in Pinedale, Wy 2018) Image credit:© Matt Mead 2018

Over the last three months I have researched the effects of smoke as well as came up with some possible solutions for the people of Laramie affected by it. In order to employ change I have come up with a series of social media posts as well as a pamphlet that describes what my project is about and a possible solution to the problem of smoke. To do this I had to research as much information as possible about smoke, how its measured, how it travels and the effects it has on humans.

Through my research and discussion over three months I learned a lot about the subject. Forest fire smoke can travel easily through the air and can enter undetected into buildings that lack proper filtration. Gyms have the greatest need for this filtration because aerobic activity can expedite the effects of smoke on gym-goers. Popular measurements of air quality such as the AQI (Air Quality Index) only measure outdoor air quality making it difficult to know the risk of indoor exercise (Liu J. C. et. al). This is an issue because smoke in the air has been linked to the formation of lung cancer in healthy people. It has also been shown to decrease performance in athletes as well as production in workplaces (Kippelen, P. Fitch et al.).

In order to combat these dangerous effects of smoke I have spent the last month designing a plan to encourage gym owners to educate their customers and install supplementary filtration to protect the gym goers in Laramie. To accomplish these goals I have been working on the design of both a social media campaign as well as an informational pamphlet to hand out. My social media campaign is designed to grab the attention of both gym owners and gym-goers alike and briefly inform some of the dangers of smoke. Posts in the campaign are meant to be memorable and shared as much as possible. My informational pamphlet is aimed mostly at owners of gyms as its meant to persuade them to install supplemental filtration. The pamphlet should be easy to read but also show serious urgency in the issue and make gym owners want to be proactive with their actions.

Although I know how important I believe this issue is in the Laramie community I suspect it’s far from realistic to expect to see immediate action particularly keeping in mind the expense to owners. That being said I feel that pressure from gym-goers will expedite the actions of owners and give a better shot at seeing filtration installed. At the very least if no action is taken, the knowledge of the dangerous effects of smoke will help protect the Laramie fitness community as it will allow them to make more informed decisions on working out.


Pete Mead is a senior attending the University of Wyoming and is studying Physiology as well as competing for the Track And Field team. 

references

Liu, J. C., Pereira, G., Uhl, S. A., Bravo, M. A., & Bell, M. L. A systematic review of the physical health impacts from non-occupational exposure to wildfire.  Science Direct, (120-132). Jan. 2015

Kippelen, P. Fitch et al. Respiratory health of elite athletes – preventing airway injury: A critical review. British Journal of Sports Medicine.  1 June. 2020

Wolfson, J., & Foster, B. Wildfire in southern Wyoming swells to estimated 80,000 acres, though officials expect Laramie to be safe. Casper Star-Tribune Online.  26 Sep. 2020

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