Poor air quality from Louisiana wildfires could become more common
Experts say wildfires and the harmful air quality the smoke from them produces — will become more common due to climate change, reports Drew Costley in the Louisiana Illuminator.
In a nutshell:
Residents of New Orleans recently experienced poor air quality due to smoke drifting into the city's atmosphere from wildfires in southwest Louisiana. Air quality monitors detected pollution levels exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards. This highlighted the health risks associated with wildfire smoke, particularly for individuals with respiratory issues like asthma and allergies. Experts predict that climate change will lead to more frequent and intense wildfires in Louisiana, with a projected 25% increase in wildfire risk by 2050. Vulnerable populations, including communities of color and those with respiratory illnesses, are most at risk from these disasters, emphasizing the need for proactive measures like monitoring air quality, staying indoors during poor conditions, and wearing masks when necessary.
“Think of it like a bathtub … the bathtub is almost empty in the white communities and the bathtub is almost full in the Black communities,” Terrell said. “When you pour a gallon of water into both, you’re going to be okay in the white communities, but in the Black communities, you may kind of get past that threshold where we start to see even more health impacts.”
The big picture:
Wildfire smoke poses significant health risks. Exposure to wildfire smoke can trigger respiratory issues, such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, particularly affecting individuals with preexisting conditions like asthma or bronchitis. Prolonged exposure to poor air quality can lead to more severe health complications and increased hospitalizations. Vulnerable populations, including communities of color and those in poverty, are disproportionately affected, emphasizing the urgent need for public health measures and policies to mitigate the health impacts of climate change-related events like wildfires.
Read the article in the Louisiana Illuminator.
For additional context, read Gwen Ranniger's piece describing how the impacts of wildfires are more far-reaching than you may realize.