• Outdoors Outdoors

Scientists make alarming discovery while analyzing impacts of wildfires this year — here's what they found

Beyond the devastation of the fires themselves, the pollution from these natural disasters is dangerous to human health.

Beyond the devastation of the fires themselves, the pollution from these natural disasters is dangerous to human health.

Photo Credit: iStock

Texas wildfires released near-record amounts of carbon in the early months of 2024, according to one monitoring agency.

What happened?

Massive wildfires ravaged Texas in the first quarter of 2024, burning more than one million acres of land.

Now, Bloomberg reports, data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service has revealed that these fires released over one million tons of carbon dioxide in January and February, which is the second-highest number on record for that period. The data did not account for March, though some blazes continued through the first part of that month.

Why is this data concerning?

Beyond the devastation of the fires themselves, which killed more than 7,000 livestock animals and destroyed homes and ranches, the pollution from these natural disasters is dangerous to human health. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to immediate symptoms like coughing, asthma attacks, stinging eyes, chest pain, fast heartbeat, irritated sinuses, and wheezing. People with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or heart disease, and those who are pregnant, children, and responders are at heightened risk, the agency says

Recent research has even revealed that inhalation of wildfire smoke is as bad for people as smoking a whole pack of cigarettes daily.

Moreover, carbon is a planet-warming gas. As global temperatures continue to rise, we can expect to see hotter temperatures, more severe storms, increased drought, food insecurity, and loss of species, among other negative consequences, according to the United Nations.

What's being done about carbon in our atmosphere?

Though fires themselves release planet-heating carbon dioxide, the overheating of our planet itself is leading to increased wildfire season length and greater wildfire frequency, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That's why it's imperative that we do what we can to stop the warming.

Some governments are trying to make a difference by cutting down on planet-heating pollution. For instance, Wales is banning most new roadway projects to cut down on carbon pollution. And Scotland is turning many urban neighborhoods into "20-minute cities," giving more residents access to public transit.

You can help out by voting for climate-friendly political candidates and advocating for more environmental policies at work. You can also change the way you get around, opting to travel by foot, bike, or public transit when possible.

When it comes to wildfires and your health, you can protect yourself by staying indoors as much as possible when there is a fire near you and investing in a HEPA filter to clean up indoor air. Experts also say it's a good idea to clean indoor surfaces by vacuuming, dusting, and mopping with a commercial, non-bleach solution to get rid of dangerous volatile organic compounds that settle. 

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