FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A group of scientists who have studied the impact of wildfire smoke on humans estimate that 5,000 to 25,000 people die every year from repeat exposure to wildfire smoke over the course of their lifetime.
The group of scientists that released the findings included an associate professor from Colorado State University, Jeffrey Pierce. Pierce said even he was surprised to see such a large number of people killed from wildfire smoke.
“Ultimately when we are talking about the health effects, most of that comes from smoke, not from the fire itself,” said Pierce.
While Colorado see its share of wildfires, the team of scientists estimates residents in northern California and Montana are at higher risk because they are exposed to wildfire smoke yearly.
“Ultimately the people that end up dying are the people that are sick and susceptible at the time. But also by breathing it over your lifetime, you’re able to get sick earlier so in a sense, everyone is susceptible,” said Pierce.
The scientists also estimate that as the earth heats up and drys out, the number of wildfires will increase and the number of people dying from repeat exposure to smoke will triple by the end of the 21st century.
“Ultimately there isn’t a lot we can do directly to prevent wildfire smoke,” said Pierce.
Pierce hopes other scientists look over their findings and reminds people that the findings are relatively preliminary.
“I want to urge caution that we need more groups studying this, more projections. We need to see what findings show up,” said Pierce.
Pierce said the public can take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke. When wildfire smoke is present, people should avoid doing strenuous activity outside because it causes people to take deep breaths.
Also, if people have central air in their homes, they should put in fresh filters to filter out smoke particles and keep windows closed.