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Smoke Choking California Again as Dangerous Fire Conditions Continue

High temperatures and poor air quality from wildfires continue to plague residents across California. Dr. Gina Solomon of PHI’s Tracking California program discusses how chronic exposure to the unsafe conditions takes a toll on lung capacity and can have long term health consequences.

  • The Guardian
a car driving down a rural road surrounded by wildfire smoke

Smoke from nearly two dozen wildfires burning across California will continue to darken skies across the west this weekend, as residents prepare for more heat, toxic air and conditions that are expected to keep fueling the flames.

The grey smoky haze coating much of the west – from Portland, Oregon, to Santa Barbara, California, has created hazardous conditions that public health officials are concerned will have an impact even after the smoke clears. Researchers at Stanford University attributed roughly up to 3,000 additional deaths in California to just one month of the wildfire smoke, especially for at-risk or elderly people.

Dr. Gina Solomon, a principle investigator for the Public Health Institute in San Francisco, says chronic exposure to the unsafe conditions takes a toll on lung capacity – and can have long term consequences.

Gina Solomon
Not only is this happening year after year, but it is happening week after week and month after month, for a significant portion of the year. What this means is it is more likely there will be long-term effects on people’s health. For children, that means their lung function may fail to increase each year, as it should, and adults will see declining lung capacity at a steeper slope. We might have made it to age 80 feeling good and not getting short of breath when climbing a hill – now we may only make it to age 75. It is insidious, it is subtle – but it is very worrisome.

Dr. Gina Solomon of PHI’s Tracking California program

Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to the climate crisis. Rising temperatures in the west have created drier conditions that, combined with poor vegetation-management policies and human encroachment into fire-prone areas, driven by the state’s housing crisis, have led to the annual disasters. Scientists predict the worst of this record-breaking season may still be yet to come.

Click below to read the full story in The Guardian.

Originally published by The Guardian

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Communities across the U.S. and around the world are grappling with dangerous wildfires and extreme heat. These threats disrupt and uproot communities and pose serious risks to environmental and community health—from rising temperatures, unhealthy air pollutants, water contamination and more. Find PHI tools, resources and examples to help communities take action and promote climate safety, equity and resiliency.

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