March 13, 2013

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

KDHE Issues Health Advisory, Safety Tips During Flint Hills Burning Season

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reminds Kansans that mid-March through the end of April is the time when large areas of the state’s Flint Hills rangeland are burned. These burns are conducted to provide better forage for cattle, and to help control invasive species such as Eastern Red Cedar and Sumac. Well planned and managed periodic burns can minimize fire safety danger and are an inexpensive tool for managing rangeland.

For burns to be conducted safely and effectively, weather and rangeland conditions must be right. In years when these conditions are rare, many landowners conduct burns at the same time. Air pollutants from the burns can affect persons in the Flint Hills and can be carried long distances to more populated areas, particularly if these burns take place when meteorological conditions do not disperse the smoke.

One outcome of prescribed burning is the release of a large amount of particulate matter (PM) and substances that can form ozone in the air during a relatively short time period. The fine particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. Persons with asthma may experience aggravated symptoms. Individuals with pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and the elderly are most likely to be affected; however, even healthy individuals may experience temporary symptoms from exposure to elevated levels of PM.

“I encourage Kansans to take precautions during the burning season by limiting their exposure to smoke, especially if you fall into one of the high-risk categories,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “Children’s respiratory systems are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, so they’re exposure is greater.”

Here are steps you can take to protect your health on days when smoke is impacting your community:

For more information about the burning in the Flint Hills, the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan and the April burn restrictions associated with the plan, please visit