Western wildfires’ health risks extend across the country

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Most large U.S. wildfires occur in the West. But the smoke doesn’t stay there. It travels eastward, affecting communities hundreds to thousands of kilometers away from the fires. In fact, the majority of asthma-related deaths and emergency room visits attributed to fire smoke in the United States occur in eastern cities, according to a study in the September 2021 GeoHealth. The big problem is fine particulate matter, tiny particles of ash, gases and other detritus suspended in smoke that are no more than 2.5 micrometers wide, small enough to lodge in the lungs and cause permanent damage. Nga Lee (Sally) Ng, professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and colleagues found that smoke particulate matter is more toxic than urban particulate matter, “inducing about five times higher cellular oxidative stress,” Ng says. Oxidative stress damages cells and DNA in the body.

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College of Sciences, EAS

College of Sciences, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Nga Lee (Sally) Ng, wildfires, wildfire smoke, fine particulate matter
  • Created By: Renay San Miguel
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jun 22, 2022 - 9:10am
  • Last Updated: Jun 22, 2022 - 9:10am