The Costs of Wildfire Smoke

We’ve been discussing CO2 emissions from logging and wildfires. Now here’s an excerpt from Washington Post article, via the Yakima Herald, “Research shows smoke from wildfires could be surprisingly deadly.”

“Just like smokestacks and tailpipes, wildfires fill the air with the byproducts of combustion, including very dangerous small particles known as PM2.5, which can get into the lungs and bloodstream. A growing body of research has demonstrated that these particles degrade health and contribute to thousands of deaths each year in the U.S. alone by causing respiratory, cardiovascular and other health problems.

“So just how deadly is the smoke from wildfires? While the numbers presented are definitely preliminary, they suggest the cost could be severe indeed.

“Pierce presented the highest numbers at the meeting. He estimates that 5,000 to 25,000 people in the U.S. may die each year from PM2.5 that specifically comes from the smoke of wildfires burning in the U.S. and nearby countries such as Canada.”

FWIW, some perspective. In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that “Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year” primarily through malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress. However, in that same year WHO also reported that “indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 in households cooking over coal, wood, and biomass stoves.” [emphasis mine]


3 thoughts on “The Costs of Wildfire Smoke”

    • Hurricanes are deadly, yes, but we cannot take any action to slow down a storm’s winds or decrease its rainfall or tidal surge. However, we can modify fuel loading, horizontal continuity, vertical arrangement, etc., to change fire behavior.

  1. “Moreover, researchers acknowledge that wildfire smoke differs in complex ways from other types of air pollution — and indeed, depends on where wildfires occur, and what they consume.” Has there been any research into how different prevention/suppression strategies change the amount or toxicity of smoke?


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