Lost Island: The Maui Wildfires
Scripps News' Scott Withers takes a closer look at what is likely to become the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history.LEARN MORE
Emissions worsen when a large fire — like the one in Maui — burns items like construction materials, cars, paints and appliances.
Sifting through the burnt rubble and cleaning brings health risks to Maui residents and responders.
"The soil is now contaminated. The water is contaminated where the harbor is, as well as the air is contaminated," says Andrew Whelton, a civil, environmental and ecological engineering professor at Purdue University.
Emissions worsen when a large fire — like the one in Maui — include items like construction materials, cars, paints and appliances.
West Maui canceled community weekend meetings because they're worried about air quality and ash.
Hawaii's Department of Health has told Lahaina and Upper Kula in the western and central parts of the island not to drink the water.
They're also concerned about ash containing cancer-causing chemicals like lead, arsenic and asbestos. Those hazards could impact brain, lung, kidney, liver or blood functioning
"Folks who have underlying lung diseases like asthma, COPD, chronic scarring in the lungs would be more susceptible to this," says Dr. Mike Shea, pulmonologist and critical care physician with Maui Health.
Class-action lawsuits blame Hawaiian Electric for keeping the power on amid high wind warnings as dozens of people reported downed power-lines.LEARN MORE
Shea is caring for patients in Maui. He says his biggest concern are those with chronic health conditions. Children and seniors are also more vulnerable.
"Some of the symptoms would be chronic cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, burning in the chest," he said.
On a press call Friday, FEMA said it and the EPA are working to test drinking water. Until then, for the people living there, everything from brushing their teeth to laundry must be done with bottled water.
People do not have to share their test results with the federal government, but they can voluntarily do so for public health records.
The health care nonprofit is one of the nation's biggest providers, serving more than 12 million patients per year.
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