Wind and rain arrived in Northern California this week, providing welcome relief to a region buffeted by the state's deadliest wildfire and then besieged for nearly two weeks by a dome of thick, noxious smoke, NBC News reported.
Forecasters expected 25 mph winds and rain to blow away the worst of the fallout by Friday. While that would improve air quality, the cleaner air does not mean that the health risks are over. Doctors in Berkeley said that they continued to see a slight uptick this week in emergency room visits, particularly from asthmatics, the elderly and children — groups most vulnerable to polluted air.
Longer-term impacts of such exposure, meanwhile, are little understood. Few studies have been conducted to track the health of people months, and years, after they have been exposed to high concentrations of “particulate” pollution. The emissions are similar to the toxic particles released with the burning of fossil fuels. But fire fumes could pose an additional risk, because they include chemicals released when homes and cars — and their attendant insulation, plastics and metals — burn.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, began last year to recognize how little was known about longer-term impacts of smoke from wildfires. So they launched studies into the impacts of the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County and other giant wine country blazes that killed more than 40 people. Scientists are also trying to better understand exactly what is in the smoke that comes from fires in the so-called "wildland-urban interface." When cars and homes burn, along with trees, it means the release of chemicals that went into paint, plastics, insulation and metal.