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This year’s nightmare wildfire season in California has burned more than 3.7 million acres across the state since the beginning of the year. The fires have also produced some of the worst smoke the state has seen. Smoke from the wildfires has the same dangerous particulate matter as tailpipe exhaust and has the same harmful health impacts, like increasing the risk of asthma and harming the body’s immune system.
Why This Matters: The Central Valley is home for many migrant and low-income communities and is already experiencing the compounding impacts of the climate crisis. The region has worse asthma rates than the state average because of the poor air quality even when fires aren’t burning.
This year’s wildfire smoke drove the air quality index well above unhealthy numbers for much of the fall, exacerbating health conditions. The New York Times chronicled the instances of children and their families impacted by poor air quality, from not being able to ride bikes to intense asthma attacks that could only be calmed with steroids.
The western US is getting hotter and drier as a result of climate change, and 18 of the largest fires in California have burned in the past 20 years. The increasing heat and smoke mean more days of dangerous air quality and subsequent health impacts.
Smoke Impacts Could Be Long Term: New research from Stanford University suggests that smoke could also alter the immune system at the genetic level. Even short exposure to the smoke changed genes that inform the body’s response to allergens.
“It could have irreversible consequences,” Dr. Kari Nadeau, a professor of medicine at Stanford who specializes in pediatric allergies and asthma told the New York Times.
Air Quality Attacked for Past Four Years: The Trump administration rolled back a laundry list of environmental protections, but regulations around air quality and pollution were the worst hit. The outgoing administration reversed 27 rules protecting Americans’ basic right to clean air, including a rollback on pollution from cars and ending the requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions. The incoming Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has the opportunity to reinstate and bolster protections for the air we breathe.
Delegates attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow will get to see a very cool display during their stay. So cool, in fact, that it’s been frozen since 1765. Artist Wayne Binitie and scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have retrieved an Antarctic time capsule containing the world’s purest air. The pocket of atmosphere was […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The European Environment Agency (EEA) found that a majority of EU countries broke at least one air pollution limit last year — despite COVID-19 lockdowns. In addition, 17 EU countries failed to stay below ozone pollution targets, which directly influence global warming; and eight EU countries failed to stay […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]
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