Health: The Consequences of Wildfire Smoke

The Story:

A new study, by a team of scientists working out of the University of California, San Diego, looks at the dangers to those who inhale wildfire smoke, and compared that danger to what is posed by other sort of air pollution. They found that admissions to California hospitals by patients reporting respiratory problems increased by amounts as high as 10% following upticks in wildfire-specific particulates in the air.

Significance:

Wildfires, in numbers and severity, have become an ever-more-serious problem in California in recent years. For example the year 2020 saw six of the state’s largest fires on record. In some places in the state the fires filled the air with their distinctively toxic smoke for weeks. There is a general belief in the state that this is a symptom of climate change, and will continue until the causes of that change are addressed.

In Pill Form:

The bottom line of the new study is: “[P]articulate matter from wildfires is more toxic than equal doses from other sources” such as industrial plants and traffic emissions. Part of the reason for this is that when wildfires consume homes, they release into the air particles of matter from metals, plastics, and cleaning supplies.

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