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The Health Hazards Of Wildfire Smoke & How To Protect Yourself

Smoke from wildfires across the West Coast in August 2020 caused the longest stretch of bad air quality in the Bay Area.
Christopher Michel / Creative Commons
Smoke from wildfires across the West Coast in August 2020 caused the longest stretch of bad air quality in the Bay Area.

On this edition of Your Call, we’re discussing the health effects of wildfire smoke. While the Bay Area’s air quality has been mostly spared, Tahoe and Reno currently have some of the worst air quality in the world.

In 2020, the Bay Area experienced a record 30 straight days of bad air quality alerts in August and September. A new Harvard study finds that wildfire smoke likely contributed to thousands of COVID-19 deaths in California, Oregon and Washington. How can we protect ourselves?


Dr. Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Co-Director of the Data Science Initiative at Harvard University

Dr. Gina Solomon, Principal Investigator at the Public Health Institute in Oakland and Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California San Francisco. Dr. Solomon is also on the advisory council of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Web Resources:

Purple Air

Fire and smoke map

Spare the Air: The best masks to protect yourself from wildfire smoke

Air District to provide around 2,000 individuals living in the Bay Area with portable indoor home air filtration units

CBS News, Tori Powell: Caldor Fire threatens Lake Tahoe area with hazardous air quality levels

NPR, Farida Jhabvala Romero: Inhaling Wildfire Smoke May Contribute To Thousands Of Additional COVID Cases

NY Times, Jill Cowan: How Dangerous Is Wildfire Smoke?

NBC News, Denise Chow, Steve Patterson and Bita Ryan: Tiny smoke particles could make wildfires particularly harmful to human health

Lea is a producer for Your Call on KALW Local Public Radio. She graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY in 2018.
Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular media roundtable guest in 2001. In 2019, the San Francisco Press Club named Your Call the best public affairs program. In 2017, The Nation named it the most valuable local radio show.