Tens of millions of Americans had to deal with wildfire smoke in 2020, and entire cities were affected. The apocalyptic scenarios will remain forever in the history of the USA, unfortunately. Only in Oregon, about 500,000 people were under evacuation orders, and the reason is obvious: the huge amounts of smoke are harmful to anybody’s health.
But surely we want to know just how harmful that smoke is, and luckily for us, a new article from NPR.com sheds light on the mystery. Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from the University of California, San Diego, are the ones involved in the new study.
Wildfire smoke is ten times more harmful than pollution caused by cars
The tiny particles present in the wildfire smoke are up to 10 times more dangerous for humans’ health than particles from other sources, including car exhaust. Rosana Aguilera and Tom Corringham, both co-authors of the new study, analyzed hospital admissions data from Southern California and over a span of more than 14 years. After comparing the data to spikes in air pollution during some wind events, the researchers found that the wildfire smoke caused a maximum of 10% increase in hospitalizations.
We’re pretty aware of the physical costs of wildfire, in terms of firefighting costs and damage to property.
He also added:
But there’s been a lot of work that has shown that the health impacts due to wildfire smoke are on the same order of magnitude, or possibly even greater, than the direct physical cost.
The damages and efforts needed to corral the fires from California cost the US over $10 billion. The severe thunderstorms from August 2020 ignited numerous wildfires in California, Washington, and Oregon. Additional ignitions occurred in early September across the West Coast.
The new research was published in the journal Nature Communications.