American Lung Association in California Statement on Chevron Refinery Fire

Chevron Refinery Fire took place Monday, August 6, in Richmond, CA

(August 9, 2012)

Dangerous smoke resulting from refinery fires poses lethal health hazards to people living and working in the surrounding areas. Residents with respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and also those with chronic heart disease should take extra precautions and monitor their condition during this time and call their physician immediately if problems develop. 

“Even those without lung diseases are at risk during a smoke episode,” said Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, Stanford University faculty member and volunteer leadership board member of the American Lung Association in California. “Due to the toxic chemicals involved in a refinery  fire, there is an increased risk of dangerous health effects ranging from respiratory tract irritation to more serious illness, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and premature death. This is especially true for older adults and outdoor workers. Children are also more susceptible to health impacts from smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing.” 

With the initial emergency over, it is important to understand the health effects of PM. Just-published research has demonstrated that the initial impact of PM can send people to the emergency room for cardiovascular effects immediately, while respiratory harm can hit 2 or more days later.

“Due to the extremely high levels of pollutants, people with respiratory problems and chronic heart disease may experience increased symptoms over time and should contact their doctor promptly, especially those using oxygen. People using oxygen are strongly cautioned to not adjust their levels of intake without consulting their doctor first,” said Dr. Nadeau.

For more information on how to protect yourself, please call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA.