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Wildfires Causing Major Drop in Air Quality

Wildfires Causing Major Drop in Air Quality

A 2020 study, which The Guardian has recently highlighted, has shown the severity of decreasing air quality in the United States of America. The article highlights the increasing impact of wildfires on air pollution. Unfortunately, where many U.S cities are improving regarding air quality, wildfires are hindering efforts in other areas.

The 2020 study had a very worrying key finding - compared to a decade ago, the number of people exposed to unhealthy levels of particulate matter in the U.S has increased 27-fold. This increase led to a total of 25 million people breathing toxic air from wildfires in 2020.

This massive increase in the prevalence of toxic air is directly caused by the increasing number of wildfires and their severity. However, the article also highlights one extremely concerning fact - six of California’s largest seven wildfires have occurred since 2020.

Wildfires mainly impact the west coast, but recently they have been spreading into further eastern states. With wildfire smoke being able to travel over 3000 miles, this makes the impacts of particulate emissions felt all over the country and even in parts of Canada.

On the west coast, air quality has been closely monitored since the Clean Air Act of 1970. From this monitoring, researchers have found that, on average, wildfires add five micrograms of PM2.5 to the air in the U.S west. All other sources (primarily fuel combustion) amount to only ten micrograms, meaning wildfires significantly contribute to the decreasing air quality in much of the U.S.

However, the biggest issue with wildfire emissions is that they can’t be controlled and can travel far further than other pollution sources. Where we can control vehicular, manufacturing, and industrial emissions, wildfires are far less controllable and predictable. On top of this, with wildfire smoke being able to travel 3000 miles, pollution from this source is very concerning.

Wildfire smoke has been tied to many health conditions and should be avoided at all costs. This means avoiding the outdoors wherever possible - especially strenuous activities - using air purifiers and wearing masks when going outdoors is unavoidable.

Read more on The Guardian.

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