Impacts of fire smoke plumes on regional air quality, 2006–2013

TitleImpacts of fire smoke plumes on regional air quality, 2006–2013
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLarsen, AE
Secondary AuthorsReich, BJ
Tertiary AuthorsRuminski, M
Subsidiary AuthorsRappold, AG
JournalJournal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology
Keywordssmoke and air quality, technical reports and journal articles

Increases in the severity and frequency of large fires necessitate improved understanding of the influence of smoke on air quality and public health. The objective of this study is to estimate the effect of smoke from fires across the continental U.S. on regional air quality over an extended period of time. We use 2006–2013 data on ozone (O3), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and PM2.5 constituents from environmental monitoring sites to characterize regional air quality and satellite imagery data to identify plumes. Unhealthy levels of O3 and PM2.5 were, respectively, 3.3 and 2.5 times more likely to occur on plume days than on clear days. With a two-stage approach, we estimated the effect of plumes on pollutants, controlling for season, temperature, and within-site and between-site variability. Plumes were associated with an average increase of 2.6 p.p.b. (2.5, 2.7) in O3 and 2.9 µg/m3 (2.8, 3.0) in PM2.5 nationwide, but the magnitude of effects varied by location. The largest impacts were observed across the southeast. High impacts on O3 were also observed in densely populated urban areas at large distance from the fires throughout the southeast. Fire smoke substantially affects regional air quality and accounts for a disproportionate number of unhealthy days.