Monday, September 14, 2020

Given that we need to burn off an area of California roughly the size of Maine, this would seem to be an important finding

The fires are coming. The question at this point is how to burn off these acres while minimizing the impact on public health and the economy.  The consensus among scientists and forestry experts has long been that we need more controlled burns. This 2019 article by Kurtis Alexander makes that case even stronger.
California’s efforts to prevent dangerous wildfires through controlled burning have long stumbled on the issue of smoke, with residents, doctors and pollution regulators worried that such burns create too much unhealthy air.

A first-of-its kind study published Thursday, however, suggests this may not be the case. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine report that the health impacts of controlled fires are less than those of wildfires that rage out of control.

The study found that children, who are among the most susceptible to the harmful effects of smoke, were exposed to lower levels of pollutants during prescribed fires, and had less subsequent harm to their immune systems and fewer allergy complaints.

While many have always suspected that smoke from controlled burning is less noxious than from unchecked wildfires, the authors hope their new findings will help advance the case for prescribed burns in California, where it is far less common than in some parts of the country.

“What are the alternatives?” said Dr. Mary Prunicki, an instructor of medicine at Stanford and lead author of the paper. “You can’t keep having these out-of-control fires.”

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