The Reach of Wildfire Smoke Is Going Global and Undoing Progress on Clean Air
Two new reports highlight the global impact of wildfire smoke on air quality. One study reveals that over two billion people worldwide were exposed to fire-related air pollution at least once a year between 2010 and 2019, with more significant pollution in poorer countries. Another report focuses on the United States, indicating that wildfires have reversed about 25 percent of the progress made in cleaning up air pollution across states from coast to coast. The worsening wildfires are linked to climate change, making natural ecosystems drier and more prone to fire. The smoke from wildfires contains harmful pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), which can pose serious health risks. While air quality has generally improved in the United States due to the Clean Air Act, the resurgence of PM 2.5 levels since 2016 is concerning. Addressing the issue involves both air quality improvements and climate change mitigation efforts.