HEADLINES Published September10, 2015 By Staff Writer

Wildfires and Drought Causing Breathing Problems in Western U.S.

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Smoke hanging over a farm in the Western United States
(Photo : Stephen Brashear, Getty Images)

There are large wildfires raging in the Western United States. There is a season of wildfires every year, but this one is shaping up to be epic due to the years-long drought in the area. People with breathing issues-those with asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other lung problems-are being hit with double whammy of smoke from the fires and dust and extra air pollution that is due to the drought.

The record drought has led to dangerous drops in air quality that exacerbate public health problems in this region and threaten to choke the quality of life. Normally, particulate matter levels in the air go up in winter and down in summer, according to officials who deal with air pollution in California. But the rain that normally clears the air of particles is simply not coming. In addition to the air not being cleared by the rain, the dryness means that dust is being kicked up from parched meadows and from farms that are allowing fields to go unplanted because of lack of water.

The bad wildfire season means more smoke in the air more often. Smoke from very large fires can travel great distances. Denver is dealing with pollution from wildfires in Canada. Certain geographic areas, such as the San Joaquin Valley of California trap bad air, smoke, and the dust caused by the lack of rain. Schools are keeping kids indoors during recess because of the bad quality of the air and people with lung problems are being warned to stay inside.

Outdoor temperatures have been higher than 100 degrees in some parts of California. There is dry brush everywhere, which means that another wildfire can start at any time.

Asthma and allergy clinics and pulmonologists' offices are seeing larger numbers of people coming in with lung and breathing problems since the beginning of the drought. Even people with no previous breathing issues are experiencing them, according to an article in The New York Times.

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