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Western Wildfires Cause Dangerous Air Pollution on East Coast

Climate
Air pollution in New York City on July 20, 2021.
Smoke from wildfires on the west coast made its way across the country to New York City on July 20, 2021. ED JONES / AFP via Getty Images
What happens in the West definitely is not staying there as smoke from wildfires fueled by climate change blankets the Eastern U.S. with dangerous air pollution.

New York City's air quality was the worst in the world on Tuesday, posing a danger to everyone, not just groups considered more vulnerable than the general population. Even thinned by its 2,500 mile journey across the continent, smoke was so thick George Pope, a professor of earth and environmental studies at Montclair State University, couldn't see Manhattan from his New Jersey office.

"You can pretty much always see the skyline, at least a silhouette, if it's a hazy day," he told The Guardian. "This is, like, this is unprecedented." Nearly 80 large wildfires have burned more than 1.3 million acres across 13 states so far this year.

As reported by The Associated Press:

"These fires are going to be burning all summer," said University of Washington wildfire smoke expert Dan Jaffe. "In terms of bad air quality, everywhere in the country is to going to be worse than average this year."
Growing scientific research points to potential long-term health damage from breathing in microscopic particles of smoke. Authorities have scrambled to better protect people from the harmful effects but face challenges in communicating risk to vulnerable communities and people who live very far away from burning forests.

For a deeper dive:

Air quality: The Guardian, AP, Axios, Today Show, The Hill; Fires: Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Hill; Health risks: AP explainer; Photos: Buzzfeed; Climate Signals background: 2021 Western wildfire season

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