Wildfire smoke and air quality
Wildfire smoke from Canadian wildfires is polluting air across much of the northeastern US. Explore Stanford research about wildfire smoke, health impacts, and solutions.
Smoke from wildfires in Canada has descended on much of the northeastern United States, darkening skies and prompting warnings to avoid the unhealthy air.
Wildfire smoke contains high levels of the smallest and deadliest type of particle pollution, known as PM 2.5. These specks of toxic soot, or particulate matter, are so fine they can embed deep in the lungs and pass into the bloodstream, just like the oxygen molecules we need to survive.
Stanford-led research shows that wildfire smoke, predicted to be one of the most widely felt health impacts of climate change in the United States, is already unraveling decades of air quality gains. Other studies have shown that exposure to wildfire smoke during pregnancy increases the risk that a baby will be born too early, and when wildfire smoke pollutes the air in schoolyards and classrooms, it hurts not only children’s health but also their ability to learn and possibly their future earning power.
Research from Stanford also points to a range of solutions for individuals, communities, and governments to address wildfire smoke and its impacts, from ways to overcome barriers to controlled burns, to programs for establishing clean air shelters, to tips for setting up a clean air room at home. This collection features recent research and insights from Stanford experts on wildfire smoke, air quality, health impacts, and solutions.
The shifting burden of wildfires in the United States
Wildfire smoke will be one of the most widely felt health impacts of climate change throughout the country, but U.S. clean air regulations are not equipped to deal with it. Stanford experts discuss the causes and impacts of wildfire activity and its rapid acceleration in the American west.
January 12, 2021
Wildfire smoke is unraveling decades of air quality gains
Stanford researchers have developed an AI model for predicting dangerous particle pollution to help track the American West’s rapidly worsening wildfire smoke. The detailed results show millions of Americans are routinely exposed to pollution at levels rarely seen just a decade ago.
September 22, 2022
U.S. isn’t ready for the next wildfire smoke wave. Here’s what needs to change
Most government policies for mitigating public health risks from wildfire smoke aim to educate citizens to protect themselves by staying indoors, closing windows, and using air filters. Stanford research shows why that approach fails for Americans across all income groups and points to solutions.
July 7, 2022
Wildfire smoke exposure hurts learning outcomes
Pollution from wildfires is linked to lower test scores and possibly lower future earnings for kids growing up with more smoke days at school, a new study finds. Impacts of smoke exposure on earnings are disproportionately borne by economically disadvantaged communities of color.
September 29, 2022
Wildfire smoke exposure during pregnancy increases preterm birth risk, Stanford study finds
Smoke from wildfires may have contributed to thousands of additional premature births in California between 2007 and 2012. The findings underscore the value of reducing the risk of big, extreme wildfires and suggest pregnant people should avoid very smoky air.
August 23, 2021
Stanford researchers discuss wildfires' health impacts
Massive wildfires bring a host of health concerns for vulnerable populations, firefighters and others. Experts from Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research discuss related threats, preparedness and ongoing research.
August 26, 2020
How do people respond to wildfire smoke?
Interviews with Northern California residents reveal that social norms and social support are essential for understanding protective health behaviors during wildfire smoke events – information that could be leveraged to improve public health outcomes.
August 30, 2021