Environmental Protection

Wildfire Smoke's Effects Range Far and Wide

"The clear takeaway is that wildfires, smoke, and the conditions that increase fire risk are national health concerns that spread well beyond the borders of local fire perimeters, conditions that are only projected to worsen with climate change," a new NRDC report says.

Wildfire smoke endangers the health of millions of Americans, including some who live far away from those fires because of smoke that can drift hundreds of miles, according to a new report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council. People living in Texas, Illinois, and Florida are most affected, it states.

Other states with a major impact in 2011 -- such as asthma attacks, pneumonia, and chronic lung diseases -- included Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, Tennessee, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Indiana, South Carolina, and Minnesota, according the the "Where There's Fire, There's Smoke" report, which urges that action be taken to curb the threat of climate change.

"There's trouble in the wind: What blazes in Texas rarely stays in Texas. Wildfire smoke can pose serious health risks to people hundreds of miles away from the sources of fires," said Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist in NRDC's Health and Environment Program, who directed the analysis featured in the report. "Wildfire smoke already clouds the skies of millions of Americans and because climate change will fuel more wildfires, that danger will rise. Communities need safeguards against this smoky peril, and our country needs standards to curb the unlimited carbon pollution from power plants that's driving climate change."

Texas ranked first in this unhealthy list because more than 25 million people lived in areas with wildfire smoke conditions for one week or more during 2011, according to the report.

"The clear takeaway is that wildfires, smoke, and the conditions that increase fire risk are national health concerns that spread well beyond the borders of local fire perimeters, conditions that are only projected to worsen with climate change," the report says. NRDC used smoke data from federal weather satellites and also looked at the locations of EPA ground-based air quality monitoring stations.

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