Health risks from smoke worsen with more wildfires in the Western U.S.


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 5, 2022

As wildfires worsen in the Western U.S., air pollutants are reaching concerning levels.

Ozone and smoke are the two air pollutants that are most common to result from wildfires and extreme heat. The increase in the pollutants across the country can affect people’s lungs and cardiovascular systems alongside aggravating chronic diseases according to The New York Times. Increased levels of ozone and smoke in a community’s air can also lead to premature death.

A new study monitored the levels of ozone and smoke in the Western U.S. from 2000 to 2020. It found millions of people were exposed to more days of combined dangerous levels of smoke and ozone pollution every year. Researchers involved with the project said the worsening wildfires and heat that result in these pollutants are linked to climate change.

Daniel Swain, one of the climate scientists who authored the study, said the damages of wildfires are both short and long term, even if the shorter term risks usually get the most attention.

“Something may not necessarily have a high likelihood of killing you personally in the short term,” he told the Times. “But if you impose that same risk on tens of millions of people over and over again, the societal burden is actually very high.”

Wildfires bring smoke to Iowa


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Smoke from a wildfire this May billows over a local road. (flickr/Michael Lusk)

Jenna Ladd| September 5, 2017

A yellowish haze blanketed most of eastern Iowa this Labor Day weekend thanks to wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada.

Wildfires throughout Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are credited with much of this weekend’s smoke. Just this Sunday, evacuations were ordered for Glacier National Park in Montana and 140 campers were rescued from a smoldering forest on Sunday in Oregon.

As the climate changes, wet areas become wetter and dry areas become drier, allowing for longer wildfire seasons in many parts of the western U.S. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, compared to the 1980’s, wildfires now last nearly five times as long, occur almost four times as often and burn more than six times the land area on average.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Cousins said that this weekend’s haze cut visibility at Davenport Municipal Airport by two and a half miles.

A report out of Dubuque revealed that the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the area is moderate to unhealthy for individuals sensitive to poor area quality.

Colorado wildfire smoke drifting over Iowa


Smoke billows from a wildfire in Colorado. Photo by USDAgov, Flickr.

Smoke from the Colorado wildfires has drifted over Iowa, and while it isn’t expected to generate any health problems in the state, Iowan’s can expect redder skies at dawn and dusk until the plume passes.

“Primarily, you’ll notice it toward the evening hours. The sky will be hazier,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Skow. “The sunsets and sunrises will be redder than normal.”

Meteorologists say they haven’t observed any dust particles in the smoke that could settle on structures in Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources still lists the state’s air quality as “good.”

For more information, read the full article from the Des Moines Register.