Wildfire smoke risks
BILLS, Mont. (AP) – Smoke from Wildfires in the western United States and Canada is blanketing much of the continent, including thousands of miles away on the East Coast. And experts say the phenomenon is becoming more common as human-caused global warming causes larger and more intense fires.
Smoke pollution hits bad levels this week in communities from Washington state to Washington DC
Get used to it, the researchers say.
“These fires will burn all summer long,” said wildfire smoke expert Dan Jaffe of the University of Washington. “In terms of bad air quality, every part of the country will be worse than average this year.”
A growing body of scientific research points to the potential for long-term health damage from breathing in microscopic smoke particles. Authorities have worked to better protect people from harm but face challenges in communicating risks to vulnerable communities and people living very far from burned forests on fire.
WHY IS SO MUCH AND HOW DANGEROUS?
Decades of intense firefighting have allowed dead trees and other fuels to accumulate in the forest. Now, climate change is drying up the landscape, making it easier for fires to break out and spread as more and more people move into fire-prone areas.
According to Environmental Protection Agency data, the number of days of poor air quality recorded in 2021 by pollution monitors nationwide is more than double the current figure. in the past two years. Officials said wildfires could be to blame for more of the increase.
The amount of smoke wildfires spew stems directly from how much land burns — more than 4,100 square miles (10,600 square kilometers) in the US and 4,800 square miles (12,500 square kilometers) in Canada so far in 2021. That’s behind the 10-year average this time of year for both countries, but forecasters warn the situation could worsen as a severe drought affecting 85 percent of the West increases.
Wildfire smoke contains hundreds of chemical compounds, and many can be harmful in large doses. Health officials use the concentration of smoke particles in the air to assess how dangerous it is to the public.
During the worst fire years of the past decade, hells across the West have released more than a million tons of nuts a year, according to research by the US Forest Service.
Scientists link secondhand smoke exposure to long-term health problems including reduced lung function, a weakened immune system and a higher incidence of flu. In the short term, vulnerable people can be hospitalized and sometimes die from too much smoke, according to doctors and public health officials.
When communities burn, the smoke can be especially dangerous. The 2018 fire in Paradise, California that killed 85 people and burned 14,000 homes also set off a dense Northern California fire for weeks. Smoke from burning homes and buildings contains more harmful plastics and other manufacturing materials as well as chemicals stored in garages.
WHERE IS SOUL?
Nearly 80 major wildfires are currently burning across the United States, including 19 in Montana. Biggest – eastern Oregon’s Bootleg fire — has grown to 618 square miles (1,600 square kilometers). That’s about half the size of Rhode Island, but less than 200 homes and other structures have been confirmed lost to the fire burning in a sparsely populated area.
More than 200 fires are burning in Manitoba and Ontario, according to Canadian officials.
Weather patterns and fire intensity determine who gets hit by the smoke. Huge fires generate so much heat that they can create clouds of their own that send smoke high into the atmosphere.
“It just moved across the country and slowly spread, forming this layer of cloud in the sky,” said meteorologist Miles Bliss of the National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon.
Air pollution data shows a combined plumage from Canada and the US passed through parts of the Midwest this week before settling on the ground over an area stretching from Ohio northeast to New England. and south to the Carolinas.
Possible health effects thousands of miles from the flames. Jeff Pierce, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University, says the smoke loses its smell but remains a potential hazard even if it travels that far.
“It’s definitely not healthy,” Pierce said of the air along the East Coast in recent days. “If you have asthma or any kind of respiratory condition, you should think about changing your plans if you plan to go out.”
According to a recent study by epidemiologists Sheryl Magzamen and Pierce of Colorado State University, people living near fires are more likely to be prepared and take precautions, while people living further away are unwittingly exposed to fires. fire, according to a recent study by epidemiologists Sheryl Magzamen and Pierce of Colorado State University.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
Listen for smoke warnings and, if recommended, avoid outdoor activities to reduce exposure. Close doors and windows, and run an air filter to clean the air inside. Masks can protect against breathing in smoke. As with COVID-19, the most effective are N95 masks because they are designed to block the smallest particles.
Online Security, Interactive smoke map launched last year by the EPA and the US Forest Service on a pilot basis that has attracted millions of viewers. To reach people faster, officials are considering using mobile push notifications to alert users when heavy smoke could overwhelm their communities, according to spokeswoman Enesta Jones.
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