World Health Organization (WHO) officials warned on Friday that the Amazon forest fires are posing a particular threat to the well-being of children in the area. Breathing in all that smoke, which is full of particulate matter that can lodge itself in people’s lungs, can pose respiratory danger, especially to sensitive individuals like children.
“We have some anecdotal reports of increase of certain respiratory diseases in children but nothing that we can report from a systematic monitoring,” Maria Neira, WHO’s director of public health, environmental, and social determinants of health, said in an interview with Reuters announcing the risks.
The fires are not natural fires due, they’re a result of ranchers illegally logging trees and setting the brush on fire to make room for cattle pastures. Eventually, that land is sold to soy farmers. These fires happens every year, but this year the number of fires have reached levels not seen for a decade.
Many communities close to the fires have been evacuated as the Brazilian army attempts to put out some of the flames, but there is still a risk for those who remain, including the indigenous people who live in the rainforest. According to Survival International, locals have reported armed loggers entering the lands of uncontacted tribes. These communities are facing both the threat of violence from the loggers and ranchers, and now they face the threat of air pollution as well. WHO hasn’t confirmed any deaths, but the BBC reports that a couple in a rural village in the northwestern state of Rondonia has died due to the fires.
The worst part of these fires is the season is only getting started. The dry season, which is when people usually use fires to clear land, usually stretches into February.