Air Pollution
4:47 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Smoke From Distant Wildfires Poses Health Risk To Illinois And Missouri Residents

This aerial photograph of this year's Idaho wildfires shows large smoke plumes traveling eastward.
Credit via NASA

A new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council warns that smoke from wildfires poses health risks to people living far from the actual blaze.

The study used data from 2011, an especially bad year for wildfires in the US, to rank states with the greatest number of residents affected by wildfire smoke for longer than a week.

Illinois and Missouri were ranked second and fourth respectively, despite having no wildfires of their own.

Contributing scientist Patrick Kinney believes everyone should be aware of smoke-related health risks.

“Wildfire smoke contains hundreds of toxic compounds," Kinney said. "From a public health point of view it’s convenient to express the risk of smoke using a simple measure called PM2.5, which refers to airborne particles so tiny that they can make it very deep into our lungs where they may deposit and cause damage.”

Health effects of breathing wildfire smoke include asthma, pneumonia and worsening of cardiac and respiratory diseases.

Follow Sarah Skiöld-Hanlin on Twitter@Skihan