Every year, the U.S. faces serious wildfires that cause significant economic damage and threaten human health. However, a recent Cornell University study found that smoke from wildfires can kill up to 9,000 Americans a year.
Smoke particles in the air can cause 4,000 to 9,000 premature deaths per year in the United States. This is because smoke and particulate matter from wildfires are a health hazard. Epidemiological studies have shown that exposure to PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 microns) associated with wildfires is positively related to mortality and some common respiratory diseases.
Researchers used satellite data on wildfire emissions and air quality collected from 2012 to 2014, then incorporated that data into a new mathematical model and estimated how smoke from wildfires could affect human health and the economy.
State metropolitan areas near fire sources, such as Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta, are likely to face a significant number of deaths and greater economic damage. Los Angeles, which is leeward of the fires in the western United States, could see 119 deaths annually and a financial burden of $1.07 billion. On the leeward side of the fires in the southern U.S., Atlanta could see 76 premature deaths annually and a $690 million loss. In Houston, where an estimated 65 premature deaths are attributable to fire-induced particulate matter, the damage could be $580 million. In New York City, recently hit by a wildfire in Quebec City in early June, 86 premature deaths and $780 million in damages are expected.
How do you fight wildfires?
Researchers suggest preventive logging as a fire-fighting measure. However, this can lead to other problems, such as ecosystem degradation and threats to animals.
One way to prevent wildfires is to control the use of fire in the forest. Also, regular clearing of dry and dead trees and vegetation from the forest should be done to help prevent the spread of fire.
It is also important to pay attention to public education and inform people about safety rules in the forest to avoid accidental fires.
Overall, the problem of forest fires and their impact on human health and the economy is a serious one. It is necessary to conduct more research and develop measures to combat this problem.