Tip Sheets

U.S. needs to focus more on harms causes by wildfire smoke

Media Contact

Adam Allington

Smoke from wildfires in Western Canada has drifted across the border and is prompting air quality alerts across multiple U.S. states this week and into the Memorial Day weekend.

Alistair Hayden

Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Public & Ecosystem Health

Alistair Hayden, a professor of practice in public and ecosystem health and a former division chief at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, says many more people die from wildfire smoke than from the fire itself.

Hayden says:

“Many of these wildfire-smoke deaths occur during the wildfire, and additional deaths can occur even years later. These significant impacts, which often occur far from fire-prone areas, upend conventional ideas of who is at risk of wildfire.

“A recent study even calculated that Florida and New York are among the states with the most wildfire-smoke-related deaths, due to long-distance transport of smoke into dense populations. 

“We need additional national policy solutions to this national issue. A good start would be to incorporate smoke impacts across wildfire policy so that critical funding and decision-making information reaches impacted communities and the first responders who protect them. 

“Individuals can protect themselves from wildfire smoke and other air pollution with air cleaners, including low-cost DIY versions called Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes. Communities can protect their residents with resilience hubs that maintain clean indoor air.”

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