New Research: Rising Health Risk from Smoke and Dust Inhalation from Wildfires

Alandra Marie Lopez, Juan Lezama Pacheco & Scott Fendorf, Visiting Scholars from Stanford University recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. The team collected soil samples at Pepperwood and found that wildfires can transform a naturally occurring metal in rock, soil, and plants into the toxic and carcinogenic chemical: chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium. If that sounds familiar, you might have heard of this chemical’s notoriety through the box office hit Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts and chronicling the story of the environmentalist for which the movie was titled.

The team found that the transformation of chromium-3 into this toxic form is amplified by abundant fuels and certain plant community types, like chaparral and forest. This is because they raise the temperature of the fire and provide greater volumes of chromium 3 to transform. Particles of chromium 6 are present in smoke but can also be found in surface soil for nearly a year after the fire, or until sufficient rainfall dilutes it. This is just another reason why global wildfire activity represents a rising distributed health risk from smoke and dust inhalation. But what can we do about it? Learn what Pepperwood is doing to protect our community.

Alandra Marie Lopez is proposing to follow up this research by conducting her post-doctoral work at Pepperwood analyzing the toxicity of smoke from different types of prescribed burns.

Post a comment

Traducir »