Wildfire smoke tied to thousands of deaths and billions in economic losses, researchers warn

By Carey Gillam
As hundreds of wildfires continue to rage across Canada, a new study warns that toxic particulates carried in wildfire smoke can lead to more than 4,000 premature deaths in the United States and $36 billion in annual US economic losses.

People living in California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina could suffer the highest number of premature deaths due to dangerous particulate matter that is distributed by the smoke from wildfires, researchers determined.

The study, “Quantifying the Premature Mortality and Economic Loss From Wildfire-Induced PM2.5 in the Contiguous US,” was published this month in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Researchers from Cornell University, the University of Houston and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, as well as researchers from other institutions, co-authored the work.

The researchers based their findings, in part, on analyses of satellite wildfire emission and air quality data gathered from 2012 to 2014.

The paper is the latest addition to research that underscores how environmental concerns tied to climate change are impacting human health.