It’s the Smoke, Not the Fire
Dr. David Eisenman — professor of community health sciences, director of FSPH's Center for Public Health and Disasters, and deputy director of community partnerships for FSPH's Center for Healthy Climate Solutions — authored an Opinions, Ideas & Practice article on the effects of wildfire smoke, published by the American Journal of Public Health.
"Most Americans are breathing increasingly unhealthy air from wildfire smoke. This is the first conclusion of the study by Vargo et al. in this issue of AJPH (p. 759) quantifying the magnitude of a growing climate change hazard in the United States, namely exposure to the toxic smoke of wildland fires. These increases are happening across both advantaged and disadvantaged communities. This is the second, and more important, conclusion because it counters the dominant media narrative that wildfires are an affliction of the rich. This study highlights the need for public health to do more to protect socially disadvantaged groups and to direct national attention to the smoke and away from the flames.
Climate change is producing longer fire seasons, with more frequent and severe wildfires. The resulting smoke is a complex mixture of corrosive gases and carcinogenic compounds, including particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5)—a toxic mixture of solid and liquid particles that gets into the bloodstream. PM2.5 causes a wide range of physical, mental, developmental, and cognitive health harms."