A total of 26 people have died this year in the fires across California, but new information from Stanford reveals there may be a much higher indirect death toll.
It’s no surprise that dirty air makes us sick, but Stanford University wanted to know how bad it can be for the human body and the result of a new study they did may be surprising.
“A thousand died who would not have died if they hadn’t been exposed to this terrible air quality,” said Stanford University Professor of Earth System Science Marshall Burke.
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He estimates those thousand people died in California from mid-August to mid-September this year because they were breathing in the smoke from all the wildfires across the state.
Deaths, he says, would not have happened otherwise.
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According to Burke, those who are most affected are people over the age of 65 with pre-existing health conditions.
“This could be a cardiovascular condition, this could be a respiratory condition, like asthma, this could be immune function,” said Burke.
Health experts from Stanford have previously noted that patients sick with COVID show more severe symptoms when they’re exposed to bad air.
During a press conference Wednesday about COVID, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said all the smoke in our air the past few weeks, might have actually played a role in reducing the spread of the virus.
“Ironically, I think that with the heat and the very poor air quality, more people were likely staying indoors and away from others. So we’ve been seeing these declines in our case rates,” said Cody.
The smoke was so heavy and widespread that it could be seen from space.
Burke said this killed many more people than the actual flames and it will only get worse over time.
Adding, “2020 was in some sense, no accident. Wildfires are getting worse because of a warming climate and as the climate continues to warm, we should unfortunately expect more years like this in the future, if we don’t get our act together.”