Sunday, April 3, 2011

Slash and Burn Smoke

This time of year South Texas takes a hit from the thousands of Indian villages in Mexico and Central America that still employ slash and burn agricultural techniques. Slash and burn farming methods predate the arrival of Europeans. Mexico’s presidents have always defended the practice when US citizens complain about the copious amounts of smoke drifting northward between March and May.

We must, however, understand that Indian populations have increased as much as a thousand fold since distant pre-Columbian times. In 1998 the smoke from slash and burn farming wafted as far north as Illinois and the associated health effects on those of us living north of the Rio Grande were severe.

This year has the potential to be another nasty smoke year. Extensive droughts, despite the impact of several tropical storms last summer, have exacerbated fire conditions. When droughts occur the purposely set fires often get out of control and may burn into June.

Hopefully, this year will not be a year like 1998 but with continued chaotic climactic disruptions we can expect to see more episodes of smoke drifting north into the United States. People suffering from lung diseases like emphysema, asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic bronchitis will endure the severest problems. But those suffering from allergic rhinitis and occasional bouts of bronchitis will also experience medical problems.

Healthcare costs will increase accordingly.

Here are a couple of websites in case you want to keep track of the fires on a day to day basis. May I suggest you keep abreast of the situation even if you live in the Midwest or even Upper Midwest.

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