Environmental Public Health

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health effects of smoke?

Smoke contains chemical compounds. Among these are carbon monoxide (CO), benzene, formaldehyde, and particulate matter (PM2.5). CO binds with hemoglobin in the blood so that the blood cannot utilize oxygen. CO is 200 times more likely to bind to blood than oxygen. Because blood likes to attach to CO more than oxygen, asphyxiation can occur in the presence of oxygen. Benzene and formaldehyde are known to cause cancer. PM2.5 particles are small enough to bypass our bodies natural defenses. The particles lodge in lung tissue and remain for up to a decade. Chemicals stuck to the surface of these PM2.5 particles can cause cancer and other lung ailments. Both CO and PM2.5 are respiratory irritants.