The research carried out by Harvard University warned about the relationship between an air particle generated by conflagrations and the appearance of respiratory diseases.
2020 was an atypical year that broke all kinds of records, from the pandemic that changed everything, to the highest number of hurricanes recorded in a year, to millions of acres turned to ash by the enormous number of wildfires.
In addition to the material damage generated by the forest fires, there is now a new devastating fact: the effect they could have on the health of the residents of the areas that caught fire.
A study carried out by researchers from Harvard University, specifically the TH Chan School of Public Health, published in the scientific journal Science Advances, indicates that thousands of cases of COVID 19 and hundreds of deaths as a result of the virus in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, between March and December 2020, are directly related to smoke from wildfires.
"The year 2020 brought unimaginable challenges for public health. The convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the wildfires in the western United States was devastating. The climate change which increases the frequency and intensity of fires and pandemic forestalls- generated a perfect storm, "stated one of the article authors, Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics, population, and data science from Harvard University.
The researchers used a statistical model to measure the relationship between a fine particle of air pollution, known as PM 2.5, generated by wildfires and the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in 92 counties affected by it. Type of fires.
The scientists found that for 28 days, daily increased ten micrograms of PM 2.5 for every cubic meter of air. During that same period, there was an 11.7 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in the same region, and there was an 8.4 percent increase in the number of deaths due to the virus.
The conclusion was that at least 19,700 COVID cases and 750 deaths among the three states could be attributed to this fine particle of air pollution generated by the wildfires.
The finding is consistent with the fact that the most affected counties were Sonoma, California, and Whitman, Washington, during the fires affected these areas.
Sonoma suffered the forest fires known as Glass Fire, where 67 thousand acres were lost between Napa and Sonoma counties. During that period, COVID-19 cases increased 65.3 percent in that county.
In Whitman, wildfires known as the Babb-Malden Fire suffered in which more than 15,000 acres were set on fire. Yet, in the same period, the increase in coronavirus cases in that area was 71.6 percent.
High levels of PM 2.5 in the air were already linked to various health problems, such as premature death, asthma, lung obstructions, and dozens of respiratory diseases. While changing the mindset is supposed to lower risk, long-term exposure to these particles over the years can be highly damaging.
The risk is that every year we see more forest fires as a result of global warming. So far, in 2021, more than 1,400 square miles have burned in 6,272 wildfires in California alone.
If the trend continues to rise, with the new variants, new spikes in infections could be seen on the west coast of the United States during the next few months.