Raining ash, brown snot, burning eyes and a cough. It happens when there are big wildfires in our area. These are just some of the obvious indicators that the air is full of something bad, in this case, fine particles that can cause all kinds of health problems.

Researchers at Colorado State University are working on finding out exactly what kind of health problems wildfire smoke exposure can impose on Colorado residents.

According to the EPA, "These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs," and this kind of particle pollution "is even linked to premature death."

Thousands of Colorado residents have, unfortunately, experienced a lot of wildfire smoke exposure. The Cameron Peak fire in 2020 and the High Park fire in 2012 surrounded all of us with obvious smoke, but this exposure blows in from surrounding states as well.

CSU Public Relations says their researchers "analyzed six years of hospitalization data and death records for the cities along the Front Range, which reaches deep into central Colorado from southern Wyoming" in relation to wildfire smoke and its effects on our health. They "discovered that wildfire smoke was associated with deaths from asthma and cardiovascular disease, but that there was a difference in the effects of smoke from local fires and that from distant ones...Long-range smoke was associated with expected increases in hospitalizations and increased risk of death from cardiovascular outcomes."

Consideration must be given to the alerts and news around local fires and smoke, we often don't hear anything about smoke blowing in from wildfires in other states.

Another finding to note is that smoke changes with age, according to researchers.
Jeff Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science and a co-author on this study, said researchers don’t really know how harmful smoke is as it gets older or becomes long-range smoke.

“If the smoke is even two days old, things happen chemically, which changes the smoke a lot,” he explained. “If it didn’t smell like wood burning, it was long-range smoke from California.” The team is now working to better understand the chemical changes that take place over time.

According to the CSU press release, "CSU researchers are now collaborating with local government officials on messaging related to the different types of wildfire smoke, with a specific aim to reach the most vulnerable populations. This includes caretakers of young children, people experiencing homelessness and others who can’t shelter safely in place during wildfire season."

2020 Cameron Peak Fire