Smoke from the many wildfires burning in the West is spreading well beyond the fire zones. In an article in Wired magazine Megan Molteni writes:
“AMERICA IS ON FIRE … again. More than a million and a half acres are burning in 15 states, from Arizona to Alaska.
“Putting a few hundred miles between you and combustion country certainly confers some measure of safety. But not as much as you might think. While wildfires are geographically limited by nearby fuel sources, wildfire smoke goes wherever the wind takes it. Carried on eastward-flowing air currents, dangerous particulate matter from wildfires is increasingly smothering large swathes of the US, causing health scares wherever these air pollution spikes hit. Welcome to the United States of Smoke.”
“Minnesota actually gets just about the most smoke days of any state in the US, you just don’t notice it,” says Nolan Miller, an economist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who studies the deadly health impacts of temperature and weather extremes on the elderly. In new research, his group discovered that smoke shocks can also kill. More than 1,000 people die each year from downwind exposure, according to Nolan’s analysis. “The key message of our research is that the bulk of the health burden of wildfires is not felt by people living really near the fire, but rather, on people hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the source,” says Eric Zou, an economist who led the satellite data analysis.