Study Sparks Rising Concern over Wildfire Smoke

Study Sparks Rising Concern over Wildfire Smoke

3 December 2008

published by

USA — Bottom line weather points:

– New study suggests California wildfire smoke may be more harmful than we think.
– Smoke particles can penetrate indoor structures and invade California homes.
– High percentage of organic carbon found, which contains carcinogens.

The ominous smoke that hangs in the air in Southern California after multiple wildfires may be more dangerous than previously assumed, according to a new study from the California Particle Center.

The recently published report suggests that lingering smoke from wildfires is more invasive and potentially more hazardous than other airborne pollutants. Researchers analyzed particle matter collected during California’s devastating 2007 wildfire season and reached several new conclusions about the nature of the smoke, according to the Science Daily.

“Fire emissions produce a significantly larger aerosol in size than typically seen in urban environments during periods affected by traffic sources, which emit mostly ultrafine particles,” said Constantinos Sioutas, co-director of the California Particle Center and air pollution specialist.

These smoke particulates have been linked to the production of free radicals that can damage cells and even lead to cancer. Approximately half of the sample analyzed contained organic carbon, which includes several carcinogens, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Worse still, these particles are more likely to seep through hard surfaces, making them a threat both indoors and out.

“Staying indoors may not provide protection from smoke particles in the absence of air conditioning or the ability to recirculate filtered indoor air,” Sioutas said. “This is because the fire particles can penetrate indoor structures more readily than particles from vehicular emissions.”

To protect against the heightened health risks these particles pose, Sioutas is suggesting further research into preventative measures.

“More aggressive measures to avoid smoke seem to deserve study, including distribution of masks and evacuation to air conditioned environments, and closure of non-smoke secured schools,” Sioutas said.

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