Wiley Logo Natural disasters may play a pivotal role in elevating incidences of major lung complications. With that in mind, researchers have now found that lung problems are major causes of morbidity and mortality after the occurrence of a natural disaster. It is presumed that lung injury counts for majority of the fire-related deaths and the mortality in burn cases rise from 4 percent to 30 percent if inhalation injury is present.

During the research, experts scrutinized areas of natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquakes in Jogjakarta, Padang and Haiti. They also reviewed the lung effects of natural disasters in the immediate setting and the post-disaster aftermath. It was pointed out that all survivors of disasters seemingly face an increased threat of developing pulmonary disease. Most lung complications taking place following natural disasters may be a direct result of the disaster itself.

“While respiratory (lung) conditions are common post disaster, the treatment required to manage them is often absent. A necessary part of an effective response to any natural disaster is having the required equipment and pharmaceuticals that are needed to manage and treat the resulting conditions that will predictably occur,” highlighted Professor Bruce Robinson of the University of Western Australia.

Inhalation lung injury probably occurs in around one fifth of all burn victims, and this number rises to two thirds if central facial burns are present. The 1997 forest fires in Indonesia reportedly led to around 500 environmental haze related deaths in a three month period. While approximately 300,000 episodes of asthma and 50,000 cases of bronchitis were registered, also 1.5 million respiratory infections came up.

An evaluation on the postmortem studies of victims killed by the 1982 St. Helens volcanic eruption reveals that about 80 percent died due to asphyxiation. Also toxic volcanic gases namely carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide allegedly released during eruptions and non-eruptive periods led to 4 percent volcano-related deaths. As of now, chest trauma is supposedly present in around 10 percent earthquake casualties who are admitted to the hospital. Among the spectrum of injuries seen in those with chest trauma, rib fractures apparently were 17-50 percent. And lung collapse reportedly was 6-52 percent with 11-19 percent incidences of serious bleeding into the chest cavity.

The research is published in the journal Respirology.