SHARE
COPY LINK

WILDFIRES

Are Spain’s wildfires a risk to people’s health?

Dozens of wildfires are currently destroying thousands of hectares of forest and land across Spain, but what impact can they have on your health if you happen to live in a province which is dealing with forest fires?

Are Spain’s wildfires a risk to people's health?
Smoke inhalation from wildfires can damage your health. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

Forest fires raging across Spain have already broken annual records in terms of hectares destroyed, with another grim milestone for the highest number of wildfires in a single year set to follow.

Just over 200,000 hectares (495,000 acres) of forests in Spain have been lost to fire so far this year, according to the European Union’s satellite monitoring service EFFIS.

As well as wreaking havoc across the local landscapes, they can be particularly damaging to our health too. 

Experts say that even more dangerous than getting burned by the fires themselves, is breathing in the smoke from them. This is in fact the leading cause of death during a fire.

This means even if you’re not actually that near the fire, the smoke in the air can still affect you.

According to the experts, pollutants and smoke particles from wildfires can travel thousands of miles away, so even if you’re in the next town, you may be at some risk.

READ ALSO: What to do and what to avoid if you witness a forest fire in Spain

What are the effects of smoke inhalation?

If a forest fire is particularly big and rages for a long time, like we have seen this summer in Spain already, then the damage from smoke inhalation can be particularly bad.

Particles from fires are very small – one-third the diameter of your hair, according to the American Lung Association, and can therefore easily get lodged deep in your lungs.

Fumes from these fires can cause coughs, irritated eyes, an itchy nose and scratchy throat. It can also be dangerous for those who are vulnerable and suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma.

Particle pollution can also trigger heart attacks and strokes.

Children, pregnant women and the elderly are particularly vulnerable when exposed to smoke. It has been found that these people are more likely to get coughs, colds and bronchitis after breathing in fumes from fires.

According to Cristina Martínez, an expert from the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery, smoke is not only dangerous because of the particles it emits, but also because it can raise temperatures further. Smoke alone can cause burns inside your respiratory system, such as in your throat and your lungs.

Remember that if you have inhaled a lot of smoke, you should get checked out by a doctor, even if you feel fine, your insides might not be.

How can I minimise the damage to my health?

Chief fire officer for Madrid Víctor Prieto says that to eliminate these health risks, you should listen to the authorities and stay inside if it’s safe to do so. He also encourages people to close all doors and windows to make sure the smog doesn’t get inside the house.

If you do have to go outside, it’s important to make sure your nose and mouth are covered with a mask, so the air is filtered before you breathe it.

Remember to also always call the emergency services if you spot a forest fire. Even if it’s small, it can quickly get out of control.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

WORKING IN SPAIN

How self-employed workers in Spain can request sick leave

In many countries in Europe, including the UK, if you’re a self-employed, you simply won’t get paid if you get ill, but in Spain you can be.

How self-employed workers in Spain can request sick leave

This is good news for autónomos or freelancers in Spain, one of the toughest countries in Europe to be self-employed. 

This is mainly because, from the first euro you earn, you must pay taxes, plus a monthly social security fee. The fee now depends on how much you earn, but roughly it ranges from €230 for low earners, €320 for mid-earners, and €500 for high earners. 

READ ALSO: Self-employed in Spain: How to calculate your monthly social security fee 

Yes, freelancers in Spain pay a lot out, but there are several benefits they get in return, one of these is sick pay, if you fall ill or have an accident for example.

Whether you have multiple clients, own your own business or just freelance for one main company you will be entitled to paid sick leave in Spain if you’re self-employed. 

Spain’s Social Security office explains that, if due to illness or an accident, someone cannot temporarily carry out their own work, both the necessary health care and an economic benefit may be requested.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes for self-employed people in Spain this year 

How does it work?

If you get ill or have an accident that is not work-related, you will only be entitled to receive pay from the fourth day of leave.  

In order to benefit, certain requirements must be met:

  • You must be registered with the Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos or RETA. This is the Special Regime for Self-Employed Workers that you will have signed up for when you first became freelance in Spain. 
  • You must also be up to date with all Social your Security payments. 
  • You must have contributed to Social Security for a minimum of 180 days in the 5 years prior to the illness or accident.

The maximum period that you can benefit from temporary leave is 12 months, with periodic medical check-ups. However, an additional extension can be given for a maximum of six months.

READ ALSO: How to hire someone if you’re self-employed in Spain 

How to request sick leave?  

  1. The first step is to go to your doctor and request a ‘baja’ or leave from work. If they feel it’s justified or necessary, they will give you an official sick leave form. 
  2. You will also need to inform your Mutua or Mutual Society, which covers you in these types of events. You can find out which Mutua you belong to by looking at your original RETA confirmation document when you signed up to be autónomo
  3. Next, you must fill out an official Social Security document. Here, will have to specify why you are on leave and explain the situation. While you can download this form online, unfortunately, you will have to physically go to the Social Security or Mutual Insurance offices to present it with your corresponding documentation. In the event that your illness prevents you from doing so, you can authorise another person to do it for you, however, they must take a certified photocopy of your ID card such as your TIE.  

How much sick pay will I receive?

In the case of leave due to a common illness or an accident that wasn’t at work, you will be paid 60 percent of the self-employed regulatory base (the average amount you earn per month). You will receive this from the fourth to the twentieth day of leave. If your illness lasts longer than 20 days, this will go up to 75 percent of the same base.

If you are ill for a long time, remember, however, you must still keep paying your social security fee during the first two months of leave. This means that you will receive even less sick pay because you have to pay your contribution fee from it too. The fee will not have to be paid after the first 60 days. 

Work-related accident or illness 

If the disability is due to an accident at work or a disease derived from your job, no prior Social Security contribution period is required. You will be entitled to sick pay on your first day of leave.

Again, you must visit the doctor and contact your Mutua, and fill out the necessary forms from Social Security.  

SHOW COMMENTS