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A publication of Appalachian Voices

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Studies Show Harmful Air Pollution From Wildfires

By Meredith Abercrombie

Two studies published by the Georgia Institute of Technology in June suggest that air particle pollution from forest fires is much worse than originally identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For the two studies, researchers collected smoke samples from forest fire plumes in the western United States to test particulates in the smoke. The results are relevant for other areas that have experienced forest fires, such as Appalachia.

One study found that the burning timber produced fine particles that contained multiple harmful chemicals and could be a health hazard at a rate three times higher than the EPA reported in the emissions inventories from prescribed burnings.

The other study found that particulates from forest fires are lingering in the upper levels of the atmosphere and could be accelerating the rate of global warming.

University of Montana – Missoula atmospheric scientist Bob Yokelson recommends prescribed burnings to help reduce the amounts of harmful toxins being released into the environment by wildfires, according to a press release from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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