Wildfires – what effect do they have on our air?
Wildfires are defined as large, destructive fires that spread quickly over woodland or brush – and they are becoming more and more common. In 2019 in the US for example, there were 50,477 wildfires and 58,083 wildfires in 2018. The main reason for this is climate change – wildfires are a physical manifestation of our planet’s increasing heat and changing weather patterns, and scientists predict that they will continue to burn more intensely and widely than we have seen before.
So why are wildfires bad news in terms of air pollution? As they burn, they emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases, which in turn also increase the global temperature. On top of this they often burn acres of trees and forests that would otherwise help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our air. Research estimates that wildfires have emitted a colossal 8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year for the last 20 years.
Fires have also been seen here in the UK. Back in 2018, a fire on Saddleworth Moor had a serious impact on air quality in north west England, which saw huge increases in PM2.5 concentrations. It can be easy however to imagine that massive wildfires across the pond in the US or in South America have little to no impact on us here in the UK – but studies have found that smoke can linger in the atmosphere for weeks, dispersing across thousands of miles.
A recent article stated that air pollution from wildfires is directly responsible for around 200 deaths per year here in the UK, and for over 33,500 deaths around the world. PM2.5 concentrations can be even more toxic and dangerous when emitted by wildfires – and this particulate matter has been proven to have a serious impact on human health.
Head here to find out more about air quality and the pollutants that could be in your air, as well as our solutions for improving the air inside your home.