Extreme Wildfires and the Alarming Risk of People to Lung Damage

Khryss | Published 2017-09-29 12:57

When will US be able to breathe again?

This year's abnormally large profusion of wildfires have already scorched 3.3 million hectares in the US. That's already about the size of Maryland and has long surpassed the 2006 to 2016 annual average (until September) of 2.25 million hectares! And there still seems to be no relief on the horizons yet.

According to the US National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Idaho, 4 massive fires are currently burning different states' land, with Montana being the worst hit of 25 and then Oregon with 17.

What's more is that most western states will still possibly encounter more of this until September. “Fuel moisture levels and fire danger indices in these areas are at near-record to record levels for severity,” warns the NIFC. They also predict places like Idaho, Nevada and Utah to probably encounter wildfires this month. Montana's wide-open spaces are so bone dry that its risk might even last until October!

Authorities warned that the raging wildfires increase people's risk of having lung damage--both short and long-term--due to smoke and other pollution released. They said that your children and the elderly are most at risk.

“We consider unhealthy air to contain around 35 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre, but in Montana, they’re looking at just under 1000 over many days on a regular basis,” says Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association in Washington DC. “A colleague of mine up there is saying he can’t breathe.”

“Man-made climate change is making things incrementally hotter and allowing for fuels to dry out that much faster,” says John Abatzoglou at the University of Idaho. “A legacy of fire suppression and fuel accumulation” also worsens the US wildfires' natural pattern.

“We need to prevent this going forward, and one reason we’re having this crisis is climate change,” says Nolen. “It’s exacerbating these events, making them more likely and more severe, so as a nation we need to act now to reduce the burden going forward,” she says.


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