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Wildfire Smoke Has Been Linked to More Than 52,000 Deaths in California Over 10 Years - Study

© AP Photo / Marcio Jose SanchezAn advancing wildfire crests over a ridge Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Lakeport, Calif
An advancing wildfire crests over a ridge Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Lakeport, Calif - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.06.2024
The study adds that exposure to toxic particles has led to $432 billion in health expenses in just a decade.
A new study has found that 52,000 Californians have died over a 10-year period after being exposed to wildfire smoke containing PM2.5 - these tiny particles (named for their size of less than 2.5 micrometers) can embed themselves deep into a person’s lungs and enter the bloodstream.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles analyzed data between 2008 and 2018. Looking at PM2.5 airborne pollutants that were released from those wildfires, they found that their lethal impact on the population far outweighs deaths which can be attributed to direct, physical damage from wildfires.
According to the New York State Department of Health, exposure to high levels of PM2.5 can increase the risk of health issues such as heart disease, asthma, and low birth weight (when a baby weighs less than 5 pounds.
These particles can also appear in outdoor sources like vehicle exhaust, burning wood, gas, and other fuels - not just wildfires. But the department notes that the particles can travel from wildfire sources that are hundreds of miles away. They can also appear indoors from sources including tobacco smoke, broiling or frying food, burning candles or oil lamps, fireplaces, and space heaters.
However, the report notes that pollutants from wildfires can be more harmful to a person's health than if it had originated from another source.
Огонь в Национальным заповеднике Мохаве в результате природных пожаров в Калифорнии  - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.10.2023
Zero Percent Contained: Thousands Flee Southern California Wildfire
A previous study analyzed the impacts of wildfires in California during 2018, and estimated that 3,652 premature deaths occurred as a result - however the new study estimates over 12,000 deaths occurred during that time.

“A growing body of research suggests that particulate matter from wildfire smoke is more harmful to human health than particulate matter from other pollution sources,” said Rachel Connolly, the lead author of the study. “Society needs to invest in forest management and climate mitigation, both of which could yield significant health benefits."

“The findings are really a call to action for forest management and climate change mitigation,” she added.
Friday's study has higher numbers than previous research because prior research only focused on the short-term health impacts of the pollution.
The study also found a hefty economic impact as a result of the fires: treating those who became sick from the fires as well as the economic impact of the wildfire pollutants resulted in costs between $432 billion and $456 billion.
California experienced one of the nation’s worst fire seasons in 2018, during which 1.8 million acres burned. During the Camp Fire, more than 17,000 residences, 700 commercial/mixed residential structures and 5,800 minor structures were lost. Climate scientists have said that global warming has worsened both the longevity and frequency of California's hot summers.
The Colorado Fire burns behind a house off Highway 1 near Big Sur, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.01.2022
Video: Massive Wildfire Engulfs Big Sur, Causes Evacuations, Shuts Down California's Highway 1
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