Amazon’s indigenous people ‘twice as likely to die prematurely’ due to fires

Rio de Janeiro, May 4 (EFE).- Indigenous people in the Amazon basin are twice as likely to die prematurely than the South American population due to their exposure to smoke emitted by forest fires in the largest tropical forest in the world, according to a study released Thursday.

In some regions of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia where exposure to smoke is concentrated, mortality rates are six times higher than those of the general population, according to the non-governmental Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam).

The investigation indicates that the inhalation of harmful smoke particles, which cause respiratory problems, was responsible for nearly 12,000 deaths between 2014 and 2019, of which 230 were in indigenous territories.

“Studies like this one highlight the importance of looking at the question of the use of fire in the Amazon as a public health issue, which is not even considered today. We are losing lives because of the increase in fires and this is only going to get worse in this scenario aggravated by climate change,” said Ipam Director of Science Ane Alencar in a statement.

Alencar, co-author of the study, added that the countries of the region need to promote public policies to control the use of fire.

“Although indigenous territories are responsible for few fires in the Amazon basin, our research shows that people living in these territories suffer significantly greater health risks due to smoke particles, compared to the general population,” said the study’s lead author, Eimy Bonilla.

Indigenous territories are located closer to the fires and are exposed to harmful particles for longer periods of time, and people there often do not have access to adequate medical care, Ipam said.

The conclusions of the study, led by Harvard University researchers, were published in the latest edition of the scientific journal Environmental Research Health from IOP Publishing.

According to the researchers, the rate of biomass burned in South America has increased significantly in recent years due to forest degradation caused by human activity (such as mining, logging and agricultural land use) and variations in climatic conditions.

In the Brazilian Amazon alone, 115,033 fires were registered last year, 53 percent more than in 2021 and the highest number reported since 2010, destroying 7.9 million hectares of tropical forest. EFE


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