Residents in California face record-high levels of air pollution due to wildfires.
There are currently ten large wildfires burning across California. The largest of which is located in five counties in northern California near San Fransisco and has so far burned almost 400,000 acres of land.
To date, this is the second-largest wildfire on record.
Not only are these fires posing an immediate life-risk to the people in the area, with 224 properties already destroyed and seven people pronounced dead, but these fires also pose a deadly air pollution risk.
Particulate matter (PM2.5) levels have reached as high as 453μg/m3.
The World Health Organisation recommended safe limit for PM2.5 is 10μg/m3
This level of air pollution poses a serious health warning of emergency conditions. According to the air quality index, at this level, the entire population is more likely to be affected.
The California Department of Public Health has advised people to stay indoors during these periods of high air pollution and have suggested that the public should use air conditioners and air filters where possible.
On top of the immediate air pollution risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned that this air pollution can increase the risk of COVID-19.
They said: ‘Exposure to air pollutants in wildfire smoke can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function, and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, likely including COVID-19.’
Between January 1 to September 9, the U.S has seen over 41,000 wildfires, compared to 35,000 in the same period in 2019.
Climate change is largely responsible for these fires getting worse, warmer temperatures dry out fuels, meaning all you need is a spark to start a mass wildfire.
This year, high temperatures and strong winds have made the situation even worse. Southern California saw a heatwave where temperatures reached peaks of 54.4C in August – the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet.
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