OCT 15, 2020 3:20 PM PDT

An Estimated 38 Million People were Exposed to Polluted Wildfire Smoke

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

As wildfires continue to burn record-breaking acreages along the west coast of the United States and inland regions, hospitals have seen rising numbers of patients suffering from hazardous smoke exposure. Today, the Associated Press released an analysis of pollution data that shows how wildfire smoke impacted millions of people across California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

According to the analysis, at least 38 million people live in counties that experienced unhealthy air pollution levels for at least five days. Most of those are in California, representing 25 million people exposed to harmful air pollution. Washington included 7.2 million, Oregon had 3.5 million, Idaho had 1 million, and Montana had nearly 300,000 residents exposed to unhealthy air quality.

The AP reports that Stanford researchers estimated that up to 3,000 people over the age of 65 died prematurely over a six-week period that began August 1, 2020. Additionally, the AP reports that the University of Washing researchers estimated “hundreds more deaths” due to poor air quality caused by wildfires. The AP is cautious to note that these estimates have not been published in peer-reviewed journals.

As the AP previously reported, wildfire smoke features particulate matter—about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair—that can penetrate deeply into the lungs. According to the EPA, humans can detect dust, dirt, soot, and smoke but particulate pollution can only be detected using an electron microscope.

The AP’s wildfire hazard analysis showed that Oregon experienced concentrations of the most harmful particulate pollutants at concentrations higher than 700 ppm. California and Washington’s particulate pollution reached concentrated between 500 and 600 ppm.

The particulate matter in wildfire smoke can cause coughing, chest pain, and asthma attacks. The elderly, children, and those with pre-existing respiratory or other related health complications are at higher risk. The AP reports that there will likely be many “hidden victims” who died from issues triggered or further exacerbated by hazardous air quality. Martin Johnson, a pulmonologist in Salem, Oregon, told AP reporters that “Many won’t show up at the hospital or they’ll die at home or they’ll show up at hospice for other reasons, such as pneumonia or other complications.”

Sources: Associated Press, EPA

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
DEC 27, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Delivering DNA- & RNA-Based Therapies in a New Way
DEC 27, 2020
Delivering DNA- & RNA-Based Therapies in a New Way
Gene therapy holds tremendous promise for its potential to cure genetic diseases. We've also recently seen how critical ...
JAN 01, 2021
Microbiology
A New Type of Antibiotics Help the Immune System Fight Pathogens
JAN 01, 2021
A New Type of Antibiotics Help the Immune System Fight Pathogens
Reporting in Nature, scientists have identified a new group of compounds that may help us get out of the antibiotic-resi ...
JAN 01, 2021
Cardiology
Blood Vessel Damage Caused by COVID-19 Disrupts Brain
JAN 01, 2021
Blood Vessel Damage Caused by COVID-19 Disrupts Brain
Scientists have been trying to determine if the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects brain cells directly, or if the virus severely ...
JAN 03, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Users Don't Understand Health Risks of Smoking, Study Finds
JAN 03, 2021
Cannabis Users Don't Understand Health Risks of Smoking, Study Finds
A recent study has found that cannabis users often classify themselves as 'non-smokers' even though they smoke c ...
JAN 12, 2021
Immunology
Killer Control: Engineered Stem Cells Dodge Transplant Rejection
JAN 12, 2021
Killer Control: Engineered Stem Cells Dodge Transplant Rejection
The first organ transplant—performed over 60 years ago—was a success because the donor and recipient were id ...
JAN 19, 2021
Cardiology
Looking to the Immune System for Help Diagnosing Carotid Stenosis
JAN 19, 2021
Looking to the Immune System for Help Diagnosing Carotid Stenosis
Everyone has seen a commercial about how bad fats can build up into a plaque into a blood vessel. This is called atheros ...
Loading Comments...