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Researchers estimate wildfire smoke contributed to 1,000+ California deaths

dolan fire forest service 9 7
U.S. Forest Service- Los Padres National Forest
Photo of the Dolan Fire shared on Sept. 7

SAN FRANCISCO (KION and KPIX) Poor air quality has been a concern for many Californians over the course of the last month, but Stanford researchers said it may have an impact on health in the short- and long-term.

According to one of the researchers, the air quality may have been deadly for the elderly and vulnerable populations. The researchers believe that it may have led to as many as 1,200 deaths and 4,800 ER visits among those aged 65 or older and people with underlying health conditions.

Wildfires have been the direct cause of death for 26 people so far this year around the state.

Marshall Burke, an Associate Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University, said the smoke inhaled over the last three weeks could have far-reaching effects on both the young and old.

"There's a lot of new research that even short term exposure like we've experienced in the Bay Area could have long-term effects on immune function, respiratory function, not just short term effects," Burke told the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area.

Burke also said that researchers do not know how air quality affects people with COVID-19. He says early evidence shows that poor air quality could have a negative effect on COVID-19 positive people. If that is the case, the numbers in the report could be lower estimates.

Researchers did not look at other groups that may have been affected by wildfire smoke, such as children and people with heart or respiratory conditions.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.


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