Wildfires and Particulate Matter – A Major Environmental Impact on Our Health

Wildfires and Particulate Matter – A Major Environmental Impact on Our Health

Wildfires have been occurring at a much higher frequency than in past decades. Wildfires leave significant destruction in their wake. Many people overlook the impact that these disasters can have beyond the loss of homes and forests. The smoke caused by wildfires can have a drastic impact on the health of people nearby. Smoke from wildfires contains particulate matter which are microscopic particles that can be inhaled and get lodged in the lungs. These particles can have a significant impact on overall health.

Particulate matter is an air pollutant that comes from many different places. They can come from very simple sources such as dry soil, plants,

or fires. However, they can also come from very complex sources such as cars, industrial sites, and power plants.  These particles can be carried over great distances due to their microscopic size and the fluidity of wind. Regardless of where they originate, it is important to understand that these particulates can have an impact on our overall health.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand where particulate matter is coming from. In the case of a wildfire, it is fairly clear that smoke is the main culprit of air pollution. However, living in a common neighborhood, it can be hard to understand if air pollutants could be impacting your health. If these pollutants are impossible to see with our naked eyes, how could we possibly know that they are there?

An air quality index is easily accessible anywhere in the United States. This index is an assessment of the overall air quality at any given time. Your typical weather app or news station can provide you with this index on a daily basis. Interactive maps such as PurpleAir, AirNow, or BreezoMeter allow public access to real time air quality throughout the entire world. I urge you all to familiarize yourselves with these interactive maps to learn more about the air quality in your area.

Follow these links below to observe the air quality in your community with an interactive map. By: Josh Gifford

https://www.purpleair.com/map?opt=1/mAQI/a10/cC0#3.67/36.47/-96.12

https://breezometer.com/air-quality-map/air-quality?lat=38.748381&lon=-89.983158

https://gispub.epa.gov/airnow/?tab=0&clayer=ozonepm&mlayer=none

Featured image by Marcus Kauffman on Unsplash