The Toxic Air in California Is a Public Health Crisis

Thursday, 09 November 2017, 11:49:42 PM. They may be far away from the flames, but millions of residents are inhaling deadly pollution from the devastating wildfires.
“It is completely unsafe to be here at this moment,” said Jennifer Franco, a resident of Fairfield, California, on Wednesday afternoon, as massive wildfires ripped through Santa Rosa and Napa a few miles west. But she wasn’t talking about the flames—she was talking about the smoke. Accelerated by high-speed seasonal winds, ash-laden air was blowing eastward, directly into her neighborhood. “Since Tuesday morning, air quality is beyond terrible,” she said. “I’ve been having chest pain, and now I’m using a respirator.” In Sebastopol, just west of Santa Rosa, winds were blowing in a more favorable direction. But retired social worker Vaughn Whalen said gray haze still obscured the blue sky there, making the sun look eerie, dull, and orange. “I’m a tougher old fella,” he said, when asked about how he was dealing with the smoke. “But a friend of mine who lives nearby has asthma. She was telling me that the smoke is in the house. Her eyes are burning. Her chest hurts. She has difficulty breathing.” The most immediate threat from the 22 devastating wildfires currently roaring through California are the immediate fire zones. At least 21 people have died there; more than 600 people have gone missing; and thousands of buildings have been destroyed. But beyond the fire zones, millions of Californians are facing a secondary, more insidious threat: polluted air, rife with tiny particles small enough to penetrate deep into the circulatory system. Those potentially deadly particles are...Read more
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