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Scientists warn: – Dramatic increase

– There has been a truly dramatic increase in fire smoke from forest fires as air pollution. Our regulations are not designed to handle this. It is a worrying problem, says Marshall Burke, a researcher at Stanford University, to The Guardian.

He is co-author of a new study that looks at how forest fires have affected air quality in the United States. The results show, among other things, a sharp increase in the number of Americans who experience unhealthy air quality over the course of a year.

According to the study, the increase in forest fires in the US is one of the big reasons for that. The increase has meant that the effect of the USA’s “Clean Air Act” is now being whispered out, the report says.

DRAMATIC IMAGES: The wildfires in the western United States in 2020 affected the entire country in the time afterwards, research shows. Here it is burning at Lake Orville in California in September of that year. Photo JOSH EDELSON/AFP/NTB)
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Can be spread over large distances

The researchers have measured the presence of very small particles that are about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. They can travel through the air and get deep into the lungs of people when inhaled.

Smoke from wildfires has added an average of about five micrograms of these particles to places in the western United States, which is a significant increase from the national level, which is about 10 micrograms from other pollutant sources.

The difference between this fire smoke and other air pollution is that it can travel over huge distances, says Burke.

So even a wildfire in the far west of the United States can affect the air on the other side of the country. This was, among other things, why New York’s air quality was among the worst in the world after all the wildfires in the west of the USA in the summer of 2020.

Sound the alarm: – Hard to survive

Generally, it has been seen that people who have not lived near motorways or power plants have had relatively good air quality, but the introduction of fire smoke has changed that, according to the study.

– It was honestly surprising to see how quickly the extreme exposures have gone up. And there is also evidence that this is going to increase, warns Burke.

A decade ago, fewer than 500,000 people in the United States were exposed to days with air quality considered unhealthy. That is, when the air quality index is 100 or above due to smoke. Now five million Americans live in areas with such levels at least one day a year.

In 2020 alone, nearly 25 million people across the United States were affected by hazardous smoke.

MUST RUN: Farmer Angel Martin Arjona has to run for his life after he tried to save the town of Tabara in Spain from the forest fire. Video: Reuters
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Hazardous to health

Such particulate pollution causes more than just short-term discomfort to humans. It has been linked to chronic heart and lung diseases, as well as other negative health effects such as cognitive impairment, depression and premature birth, writes the New York Times.

A study from May also shows that people who lived within a 50 kilometer radius of a forest fire had a ten percent higher probability of brain tumors and a five percent higher probability of developing lung cancer compared to people who lived further away.

An earlier study shows that the pollution from forest fires is ten times more dangerous to health than other types of air pollution, writes the New York Times.

THICK SMOKE: Smoke from the forest fires in France lies close above the big city of Bordeaux. Photo: AFP
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Probability of forest fires increases

According to new climate research, scientists also expect that there will be more forest fires in the future throughout the world.

In Europe, this summer we have seen heat waves in several countries and severe forest fires in Portugal, Spain and France, among others.

– The probability of catastrophic forest fires around the world will increase by 30 percent by the end of the century, even if the global warming plan is rapidly cut, says the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Scientists warn Dramatic increase

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