From: Georgia Institute of Technology
Published June 14, 2017 11:12 AM

Wildfires Pollute Much More Than Previously Thought

Summer wildfires boost air pollution considerably more than previously believed.

Naturally burning timber and brush launch what are called fine particles into the air at a rate three times as high as levels noted in emissions inventories at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study. The microscopic specks that form aerosols are a hazard to human health, particularly to the lungs and heart.

“Burning biomass produces lots of pollution. These are really bad aerosols to breathe from a health point of view,” said researcher Greg Huey from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which led the study. The research also describes other chemicals in wildfire smoke, some never before measured, and it will likely raise the estimated annual emission of particulate matter in the western United States significantly.

The previous EPA data had been based on plume samples taken in controlled burns ignited by forestry professionals. Measuring plumes so thoroughly, from the sky, directly in the thick of a wildfire had not been possible before this study.

Read more at Georgia Institute of Technology

Image: Wildfires burn much more biomass per area than professional prescribed burns, and pollute at a much higher rate. (Credit: Kari Greer/USFS Gila National Forest via NASA)

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