COVID-19 and respiratory viruses: what to know on campus

Students wearing branded masks while socially distancing in the common

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

The risks for respiratory illness such as COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) increase as we move into fall and indoor spaces.

Here is an overview of current public health guidelines and available resources to make this transition safer for the York community.

If you are symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Toronto Public Health recommends you stay home if you are sick or have symptoms of illness, even if your symptoms are mild.
  • Anyone with new or worsening symptoms or who tests positive for COVID-19 should complete the provincial self-assessment and follow directions for self-isolation or self-monitoring.
  • Affected faculty, staff or instructors should inform their manager or associate dean of their absence and follow regular sick leave processes.

Close contact guidelines:

If you were a close contact of somebody with COVID-19, please review Toronto Public Health’s guidance page: COVID-19: What to Do if You Are a Close Contact.


An updated COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by Health Canada. COVID-19 vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness, death and post-COVID-19 condition (“long COVID”).

Visit the Ontario Health COVID-19 Vaccination Portal to book a vaccination appointment. York will share information about vaccination clinics taking place at York University campuses in the coming weeks.

Health Canada recommends an updated COVID-19 vaccine dose for those who:

  • had their last COVID-19 vaccine dose over six months ago; or
  • last had COVID-19 six months ago (whichever happened later).

Rapid antigen tests:

York University has a limited supply of free rapid antigen test kits. Visit the community health website for more information.


York is a mask-friendly environment. You may wish to consider wearing a well-fitted, high-quality mask in crowded indoor public settings. York University has mask vending machines where Level 3 masks and N95 masks may be purchased.

Wearing a mask, keeping your distance where possible, practising hand hygiene, getting vaccinated and other public health measures can reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.

For more resources, visit the Community Health page for staff, faculty and instructors. For questions related to COVID-19 or other respiratory virus, email

Information for students is available on the Student Health page and questions can be emailed to

OVID-19 et les virus respiratoires : ce qu’il faut savoir

Le risque de maladies respiratoires comme la COVID-19, la grippe et le virus respiratoire syncytial (VRS) est en hausse avec l’arrivée de l’automne et le retour dans les bâtiments.

Voici un aperçu des lignes directrices actuelles en matière de santé publique ainsi que des ressources pour rendre cette transition plus sûre pour la communauté de York.

Si vous présentez des symptômes ou si vous avez obtenu un résultat positif au test de dépistage de la COVID-19 :

  • Le Bureau de santé publique de Toronto recommande aux personnes de rester à la maison si elles sont malades ou si elles ont des symptômes, même légers.
  • Toute personne présentant des symptômes nouveaux ou s’aggravant, ou dont le test de dépistage de COVID-19 était positif, doit remplir l’auto-évaluation provinciale et suivre les instructions relatives à l’auto-isolement ou à l’autosurveillance.
  • Les membres concernés du corps professoral, du personnel ou du corps enseignant doivent informer leur gestionnaire ou doyen(ne) associé(e) de leur absence et suivre les procédures habituelles en matière de congé de maladie.

Directives relatives aux contacts étroits :

Si vous avez été en contact étroit avec une personne ayant la COVID-19, veuillez consulter la page de conseils du Bureau de santé publique de Toronto : COVID-19 : What to Do if You Are a Close Contact.

Vaccination :

Un vaccin actualisé contre la COVID-19 a été approuvé par Santé Canada. La vaccination contre la COVID-19 réduit le risque de maladie grave, de décès et du syndrome post-COVID-19 (« COVID longue »).

Visitez le portail de vaccination contre la COVID-19 de Santé Ontario pour prendre un rendez-vous de vaccination. York communiquera des informations sur les cliniques de vaccination qui se tiendront sur les campus de l’Université York dans les semaines à venir.

Santé Canada recommande une mise à jour de la dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19 dans les cas suivants :

  • La dernière dose de vaccin COVID-19 a été administrée il y a plus de six mois; ou
  • Vous avez eu la COVID-19 il y a plus de six mois (la date la plus récente étant retenue).

Tests antigéniques rapides :

L’Université York dispose d’un nombre limité de trousses de tests antigéniques rapides gratuites. Visitez le site Web de la santé communautaire pour plus d’informations.

Port du masque

York encourage le port d’un masque. Vous pouvez envisager de porter un masque bien ajusté et de bonne qualité dans les lieux publics intérieurs très fréquentés. L’Université York a des distributeurs automatiques de masques où l’on peut acheter des masques de niveau 3 et des masques N95.

Le port d’un masque, le maintien d’une distance suffisante, l’hygiène des mains, la vaccination et d’autres mesures de santé publique peuvent réduire la propagation des virus respiratoires.

Pour plus de ressources, consultez la page Community Health destinée au personnel et aux corps professoral et enseignant. Pour toute question relative à la COVID-19 ou à d’autres virus respiratoires, envoyez un courriel à

Les informations destinées à la population étudiante se trouvent sur la page Santé étudiante. Les questions peuvent être envoyées par courriel à

York to test emergency notification system Oct. 3

York University prioritizes the safety and security of its community across campuses. To ensure that all community members know what to expect and what to do in an emergency situation, the Department of Community Safety will conduct a test of York University’s Emergency Notification System on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at noon.

This test is taking place in accordance with York’s emergency management policy with the intent to promote the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors and help ensure the continuance of critical University operations during emergency scenarios. 

It will include email, push notifications and alerts through the YorkU Safety App, digital messaging screens on campus, and the public announcement system. To clearly indicate that it is a test, the word “test” will precede the alert on all devices. In case of a real emergency, the test will be cancelled and the community will be notified. 

Testing the emergency notification system may cause anxiety or stress for some members of our campus community. If you are experiencing difficulties or need support, visit

Download the York U Safety App to ensure you receive timely and important community safety notices. More resources are available for faculty, staff and students.


Why is York testing the emergency notification system?
York is testing the emergency notification system to ensure community members know how they will be notified in the event of an emergency situation. This test will also confirm functionality of all components of the system as part of regular emergency preparedness activities.  

How long will the test be?
The test is scheduled to last for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. It is important to note that while efforts will be made to ensure the test runs on schedule, there may be slight variations to the anticipated timing.  

Will the test take place at all of York’s campuses? 
Email and YorkU Safety App notification will occur for community members across all campuses. Testing of the public address system and digital messaging screens will take place on Keele and Glendon campuses only.  

Will the public address system be heard in classrooms?
The public address system test will be heard anywhere there are speakers installed, including hallways, common areas and large classrooms.  

York community members invited to share feedback on draft Well-being Strategy

Compass with needle pointing the word well-being. 3D illustration with blur effect. Concept of wellbeing or wellness

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,

Following consultation beginning in late 2022 with students, staff, faculty and instructors to determine well-being priorities, York’s draft Well-being Strategy is now available for community members to review and provide their feedback. Your input is needed to ensure that the final strategy reflects the current needs of our community.

This draft Well-being Strategy aligns with the University Academic Plan’s priority of Living Well Together and reflects York’s commitment to fostering well-being across all of our campuses. It is the culmination of work based on insight provided by York community members who shared that “a stronger sense of connection, inclusion and well-being” is among the key changes they are seeking in their experiences at the University.  

Ways to provide feedback

We encourage students, staff, faculty and instructors to review the draft Well-being Strategy and provide feedback in one of two ways:

  1. Attend one of the engagement sessions between Oct. 13 and Nov. 30.
  2. Complete the online feedback form by Dec. 15.

Feedback collected will be used to finalize the strategy and prepare for its launch in 2024. Please note that all information provided will remain confidential and will not be linked to any individual community member.

York strives to create a healthier campus community for everyone and to build an environment where members can flourish and be well. Together, we can help shape the future of well-being at York.

Learn more about the strategy and how to get involved by visiting the Well-being at York website.

Thank You, Migwech Merci

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

Nona Robinson
Vice Provost Students

Les membres de la communauté de York sont invités à donner leur avis sur la version préliminaire de la Stratégie de bien-être

Chers membres de la communauté de York,

À la suite de la consultation entamée à la fin 2022 avec la population étudiante, le personnel, et les corps professoral et enseignant pour déterminer les priorités en matière de bien-être, la version préliminaire de la Stratégie de bien-être de York est maintenant à la disposition des membres de la communauté pour qu’ils l’examinent et fournissent une rétroaction. Nous sollicitons votre opinion pour nous assurer que la stratégie finale reflète les besoins actuels de notre communauté.

Cette version préliminaire de la Stratégie de bien-être s’aligne sur la priorité Bien vivre ensemble du Plan académique de l’Université et reflète la volonté de York de favoriser le bien-être sur l’ensemble de ses campus. C’est l’aboutissement d’un travail basé sur les observations des membres de la communauté de York qui nous ont fait savoir qu’un « sentiment plus fort de connexion, d’inclusion et de bien-être » fait partie des changements clés qu’ils recherchent dans leur expérience à l’Université.  

Façons de fournir une rétroaction :

Nous encourageons les membres de la population étudiante, du personnel, et des corps professoral et enseignant à prendre connaissance de la version préliminaire de la Stratégie de bien-être et à nous faire part de leurs commentaires de l’une des façons suivantes :

  1. Participez à l’une des séances d’engagement qui auront lieu du 13 octobre au 30 novembre 2023.
  2. Remplissez le formulaire de rétroaction en ligne avant le 15 décembre 2023.

Les commentaires recueillis serviront à finaliser la stratégie et à préparer son lancement en 2024. Veuillez noter que tous les renseignements fournis demeureront confidentiels et que les résultats ne seront pas liés à un membre individuel de la communauté.

York s’efforce de créer une communauté universitaire plus saine et un environnement dans lequel tous les membres peuvent s’épanouir et se sentir bien. Ensemble, nous pouvons façonner l’avenir du bien-être à York.

Pour en savoir plus sur la stratégie et sur les façons de vous impliquer, consultez le site Bien-être à York.

Merci, Migwech, Thank You.

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

Nona Robinson
Vice-rectrice aux affaires étudiantes

Calling all adventure seekers: explore outdoors through new recreation program

For York University students and community members looking to get active this semester, but don’t want to commit to the gym or a sports team, check out Athletics & Recreation’s new Outdoor Experience Program. Adventure seekers are invited to immerse themselves in Canadian culture beyond the York campuses, with staff taking participants by bus to off-campus locations to participate in a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking, treetop trekking and zip lining to horseback riding, skating and more.

The program’s first event, a hike at Crawford Lake, takes place on Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with the hike itself lasting 90 minutes. Travelling by bus, participants will head to Crawford Lake, part of Conservation Halton Parks, where they will explore the 15th-century Longhouse Village and experience what daily life was like for Indigenous people in the area over 600 years ago. Hikers can expect to see a variety of plants and animals, as well as the unique body of water of Crawford Lake. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, try something new, and get the health and well-being benefits of being active outdoors.

Other upcoming events in the series include:

  • Treetop Trekking, Oct. 27 (register by Oct. 13);
  • Horseback Riding, Nov. 12 (register by Oct. 29); and
  • Christmas Market and Skating, Dec. 8 (register by Nov. 24).

For more information about the Outdoor Experience Program, including pricing, and to register, visit the program website. The prices of the events cover transportation, entry to the experience, required equipment and a snack. All York University community members are welcome to participate.

YURA walk to fundraise for student food support

Image shows people wearing running shoes

On Oct. 3, members of the York University Retirees’ Association (YURA) will walk five kilometres through the University’s Keele Campus to raise funds for the York Federation of Students (YFS) Food Support Centre, more commonly known as the student food bank on campus.

Earlier this year, the YURA executive committee voted unanimously to assist the YFS Food Support Centre, as one in four students at York struggles to afford food, according to a Campus Well-Being Survey conducted during the past winter term. It also stated more than 2,500 students were relying on the YFS Food Support Centre.

The fundraising walk on Oct. 3 will take place at 1 p.m., starting at the Lorna Marsden Honour Court (north of the Schulich School of Business building, east of the York University subway station), the new location of the YURA office. The route through the Keele Campus was developed with Recreation York, and all members of the University community – faculty, staff and students – are welcome to participate in all or part of the approximately one-hour walk, to show their support for this important cause.

To date, YURA’s Charity Challenge team has already raised more than $18,000 in sponsor donations from friends, family, and former York colleagues and co-workers. YURA welcomes further contributions from faculty, staff and others who are also concerned about student food insecurity at the University. To sponsor the YURA team or any of its members, tax-deductible online donations can be made here:

For further assistance, contact the YURA office at or call 416-736-2100 ext. 70664. 

The YURA team consists of eight members registered officially as fundraisers and a larger contingent of York retirees who wish to support this cause. 

This is the fifth year that YURA is taking part in the Charity Challenge. In previous years, YURA’s participation helped raise sufficient funds to endow in perpetuity three graduate student awards given annually at York University.

The upcoming YURA fundraising walk is being held in conjunction with the Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge, which offers the option of a “virtual” Charity Challenge, allowing registrants to do the five kilometres on their own or with others.

York’s Well-being Week to focus on mental, emotional health

Two hands holding each other for comfort

York University presents Fall Well-being Week, “Caring for Your Mental and Emotional Health,” taking place Oct. 2 to 6.

A series of free events was designed to help the York community reflect on and practice mental and emotional well-being.

Well-being Week offers a diverse range of workshops, sessions and webinars, with a mix of virtual and in-person activities. There will be opportunities to explore and reflect on personal well-being journeys, including speed painting, managing conflict, art-oriented self care and understanding the impact of food on mental health. Participants are invited to share their experience on social media by using the hashtag #YUWellbeing.

“The aim of these well-being focused events at York is to reduce stigma surrounding mental health, share valuable resources for personal and communal growth, provide opportunities for social connection and ensure everyone knows where to locate support resources,“ said Mary Catherine Masciangelo, assistant vice-president, human resources and chief human resources officer.

York’s Well-being Strategy

York is developing a comprehensive five-year Well-being Strategy as part of its ongoing efforts to systemically embed well-being across its campuses. This strategy, which is a collaborative effort between the Division of Students and the Division of Equity, People & Culture, acknowledges the institution’s mutual responsibility to follow a systemic approach to create an inclusive and supportive environment where all community members have opportunities to flourish and be heard.

“York University is committed to prioritizing well-being among all community members,” added Masciangelo. “This ongoing and intentional effort of dedication to the community is part of the University Academic Plan (UAP 2020-25) priority of Living Well Together. By mobilizing well-being resources, York University strives to provide an inclusive and supportive environment that promotes well-being in a way that is meaningful to its members.”

Over the coming months, all community members are encouraged to provide feedback on the draft Well-being Strategy document. Additional information on the strategy will follow.

To learn more about Fall Well-being Week, its events and to register for sessions, visit the Well-being Week website. For additional resources and support related to well-being and mental health, explore the Well-being website.

CIHR awards professor $1M grant

two people running

York University Faculty of Health Professor David Hood received a more than $1-million grant over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study the role of exercise, sex and age on muscle decline by delving into the role of lysosomes in clearing out bad mitochondria from muscles.

David Hood
David Hood

It’s not about a rare illness; it’s about something that impacts all of us. “After cancer and heart disease, musculoskeletal illnesses are one of the biggest burdens on society,” says Hood, a Canada Research Chair and professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science and a pioneer in the study of exercise physiology and mitochondria in Canada. “What’s going on with the lysosomes? Why aren’t they degrading mitochondria the way they should, and can exercise improve lysosomes? We will be studying whether or not the removal of bad mitochondria can be improved by regular exercise, whether there is a biological sex difference between males and females in the removal of mitochondria and whether it’s affected by age.”

Hood, founder of the Muscle Health Research Centre at York, has been studying the synthesis of mitochondria and musculature for decades. More recently, he has taken an interest in the role of lysosomes – the “Pac-Man” organelles responsible for clearing out cellular materials when they no longer function as they should – in the removal process of worn-out mitochondria.

Mitochondria are responsible for producing the energy required to power cells, and like all cellular structures, break down over time and need to be replaced. Previous research shows a lack of removal causes a buildup of free radicals. A lack of energy production is one reason for muscle decline in aging, and exercise helps with the removal of old mitochondria, but he says the role of lysosomes is poorly understood and the research is in its infancy.

To build on this nascent body of evidence, Hood and graduate students from York will look at lysosomes and contracting muscles cells under a microscope, conduct animal studies and look at human tissue via a collaboration with research partners at the University of Florida.

Hood says mouse model studies show that females have more mitochondria in muscle tissue than males, and previous research at York also discovered that they have more lysosomes. Now, he will look at whether the same would be true in humans.

Mitochondrial research has been exploding in recent years, due to its key role in the aging process in general, and while there is much interest in developing a pill that would help along with the mitochondrial renewal process – Hood himself has done studies looking at the role of the antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine, and found it did indeed help mitochondrial function in conjunction with exercise – Hood is not a “magic pill” advocate.

“There’s no doubt that there is a ton of excitement around mitochondria in the research world – more than any other organelle, really – and there is great interest in finding the pharmaceuticals or nutraceuticals that can combine with exercise to make mitochondria work better,” says Hood. “With age and inactivity, the more mitochondria deteriorate, and the less likely people are to exercise. This leads to a further decline in mitochondrial function – a feed forward mechanism; however, the inverse is also true – training our body produces more mitochondria and gives us the energy for further exercise, helping to stave off chronic disease. As someone with a lifelong interest in athletics, as someone who teaches exercise physiology to 600 students per year, I’ve got to try to promote exercise, and the mechanisms of its health benefits, as best I can.”

“The support from CIHR for Dr. David Hood’s important research on the role of mitochondria in muscle decline will advance our understanding of how we can mitigate muscle decline to help us age better and healthier,” said Dr. David Peters, dean of York’s Faculty of Health. “The CIHR funding for his work and for that of his York colleagues in areas ranging from self-harm behaviours to the regulation of gene expression, is a recognition of the outstanding calibre of York’s research in health and how that research will benefit society.”

Watch a video of David Hood explaining his research here:

Learn more at News @ York.

Residence Life launches sustainability, well-being pilot program

Two Black York University students walking on the Keele Campus

Over the 2023-24 academic year, York University’s Residence Life Department is piloting two Living Learning Communities (LLCs), communities of residents who are interested in engaging in learning outside the classroom around a specific topic or theme. This year’s LLCs will seek to engage residents in a series of educational opportunities to deepen their understanding of sustainability and well-being.

In addition to the social and educational programming all residents are invited to partake in, LLC residents (selected based on interest indicated through their housing application and a series of questions to determine candidacy) participate in a sequenced set of learning opportunities tied to the community theme or topic.

The sustainability LLC, housed in Founders Residence, will engage 35 residents in a series of workshops, events and dialogues with the aim that all participants will be able to act upon principles of sustainability. The well-being LLC, in Bethune Residence, will foster 35 residents’ abilities to engage in behaviours that contribute to their mental, spiritual, sexual, emotional and physical health.

Over the course of the next eight months, LLC participants will have the opportunity to engage in two educational programs, workshops or events per month tailored to support them with their respective LLC’s learning outcome.

Additionally, participants will engage in three reflective activities over the course of the year to solidify their learning and reflection throughout their experience in the program.

Each community has a work-study Living Learning Community leader to foster connection, facilitate peer programming and engage in intentional one-on-one conversations to support participants in achieving their respective goals for the LLC program.

“I wanted to get involved with the Living Learning Community at York because it’s a great way to practice immersive learning, in the sense that we get to constantly be at one with a community that shares similar values and is constantly striving to learn and grow from their surroundings,” shares Ramisa Mustafa, student leader for the sustainability LLC. “I believe it’ll not only help me engage more with York, but also help me grow as an individual and allow more room for holistic knowledge acquisition.”

Melanie Sit, student leader for the well-being LLC, adds, “I originally was interested in becoming a don, but the application to be an LLC piqued my interests, as I enjoy learning about the topic of well-being and I had some experience with it in high school. I also love planning and running different activities and events that bring joy to other people.”

In April, the sustainability LLC pilot project was one of four applications awarded funding through the Sustainability Innovation Fund, which will support the sustainability LLC in fostering student leaders equipped to role model sustainable behaviours and foster a more sustainable culture across the York University community.

Mustafa notes, “Ultimately, experiencing a sense of community helps people hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions, academics and a lot more, which I believe is important while living alone. These students who participate in the Living Learning Community will most likely have a more fulfilling experience at York because of the values and knowledge base they’ll have exposure to. This will help them step out as more socially aware individuals at the end of the program.”

The sustainability and well-being LLCs formally launched Sept. 6 with a welcome and orientation event for each community. Applications for the 2024-25 academic year will open in February 2024 as part of the housing application process for students.

Professor receives $780,000 in CIHR funding

Global health

Professor and York University Research Chair Chun Peng received $780,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to fund a new project associated with her ongoing research into pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy disorder with a profound impact on maternal and fetal health.

York biology Professor Chun Peng working in her laboratory
Chun Peng

The grant funds a project titled “NLRC5 isoforms in placental development and pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia,” part of Peng’s long-term research goal to better understand pre-eclampsia, which usually develops after 20 weeks of gestation and is characterized by high blood pressure, as well as damage to liver, kidneys or other organs. It is the leading direct cause of maternal and fetal death in the world, with over 75,000 pregnant women and 500,000 infants dying from it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even if someone survives the disease, it can lead to negative effects on the mother and fetus health during pregnancy, and can have lifelong negative impacts on cardiovascular health for both. The causes of pre-eclampsia are not fully understood, but it is known that abnormal placental development – in particular, the insufficient invasion of placental cells into the uterus to carry out the remodelling of the uterine blood vessels – is a major contributing factor.

The new study builds upon findings from a previous project where Peng and colleagues identified two truncated isoforms of a protein called NLRC5 in human placenta. Preliminary results suggest that these NLRC5 isoforms play important roles in regulating placental development, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. In this study, her lab will collaborate with researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto General Hospital to further examine how NLRC5 exert their functions in the placenta and to determine if their over-expression will lead to the development of pre-eclampsia-like symptoms.

“This project will allow us to understand more of how placenta development is regulated during pregnancy and how the abnormal levels of NLRC5 isoforms may contribute to the development of pre-eclampsia,” says Peng. “We really hope that this can give us some clues on whether a new strategy could be developed to either prevent or treat pre-eclampsia.”

Peng, who had her York Research Chair in Women’s Reproductive Health renewed in 2021, has been conducting research to better understand pre-eclampsia since 1998, and has received several previous CIHR grants – collectively amounting to nearly $3.5 million – to study the disorder.

Professors consider long-term health impact of wildfires

Wildfire in the forest

Emilie Roudier and Olivier Birot, professors with York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science in the Faculty of Health, have published research calling for a rethinking of the potential long-term health risks of wildfires.

The paper, titled “Wildland fire, air pollution and cardiovascular health: is it time to focus on the microvasculature as a risk assessment tool?,” considers how our current understanding of potential long-term health risks from particulate matter (PM) exposure is limited and mostly ignores the microvascular system, a network of tiny arterioles and capillaries that may be just as important as the heart, lungs and arteries when it comes to understanding the health dangers of PM resulting from forest fires.

“While it’s understandable that initial attention focuses on the immediate impacts of losses and casualties after a wildfire, we know that there are also longer-term impacts from exposure to particulate matter pollution,” says Roudier, who is leading the research project, which involved spending a portion of the summer on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean, where summer wildfires are common. There, a partnership was created with the CNRS Wildland Forest Unit at the University of Corsica Pasquale Paoli (UCPP) and the Corsican fire authorities to further research efforts.

“Firefighters think about lung cancer, because they breathe the smoke, but because the fires are getting higher in temperature, the particulate matter is getting really small, so small that some can reach the bloodstream,” continues Roudier. “The PM are then in the cardiovascular system and travelling through our blood vessels. We are questioning whether we are using the right measurements to assess the risk posed to firefighters and the affected population. Having better tools, or additional tools, could hopefully lead to better solutions to mitigate risks.”

The paper notes that in North America, the length of the wildfire season has increased by nearly a fifth in the past 35 years, making the need to answer these questions more pressing. Population growth and development has increased human exposure to wildfire areas, growing the likelihood of both accidental ignition and fire-suppression policies that can lead to an accumulation of biomass fuels. While there is a clear link in the literature between PM pollution and cardiovascular disease, linking this to wildfires has been harder to show, given the complexities of studying this on a population level.

Birot, an associate professor who worked as a volunteer firefighter for seven years during his undergraduate and postgraduate studies, teaches a course at York that looks at extreme environments and their effects on health, including PM exposure and exercise.

“This microcirculation is not only important for delivering oxygen and nutrients to our tissues – it is also key for communication exchanges between organs, for example, between the working muscle and the brain. And it is also this microcirculation that’s key to dissipate excess body heat, moving heat from the core of the body to the peripheral skin. So think about wildland firefighters who are engaging in long periods of intense physical activity in a context where they’re going to produce heat because of their activity, and they are doing that in an environment that is polluted and extremely hot. So you’re combining a lot of stressors,” he says.

The two researchers have obtained samples of PM from wildland fires in Corsica and have started to analyze them back in their lab at York to test their effect on human endothelial cells, which line the inner layer of blood vessels. They are looking for epigenetic biomarkers that could act as early warning systems for those who might be more vulnerable.

A delegation from the UCPP will be coming to York in October, and Roudier and Birot will head back to Corsica in December to do more field work – collecting new PM samples from controlled biomass burning – and to expand their collaboration with Corsican fire authorities.

Watch a video of Roudier and Birot explaining their research:

See more ways York University is making headlines at News @ York.