Articles on U.S. wildfires don’t often show a photo of someone gasping in a hospital bed or felled by a heart attack. Yet an increasing body of evidence suggests that the biggest societal impacts of increasing wildland fire are happening in our own bodies, the result of tiny particulates spewed in vast amounts.
Millions of people across the western U.S. coughed and hacked their way through the summer and autumn of 2020, when some of the region’s worst fires on record ripped across the landscape. It’s too soon to know the full range of health consequences from that summer’s blazes, but there’s already evidence now in peer review that more than 100 deaths may be attributable to 2020’s late-summer smoke in Washington state alone. If another early estimate is on target, the smoke may have contributed to between 1,200 and 3,000 premature deaths in California among people 65 and older.
Research on wildfire smoke and health is advancing hand in hand with the threat itself. The western fires of 2020 came soon after several disastrously hot, fiery years in California, which spawned a grim bumper crop of case studies. Meanwhile, an expanding array of satellite imagery is helping pinpoint where and
— source yaleclimateconnections.org | Bob Henson | May 10, 2021