Research project launched to study effects of North Bay Fires on pregnancies

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- His name is Phoenix, as in one who rises from the ashes and that's basically what he did, born just days after the devastating Napa fires last October.

"It was such a scary time here," said Phoenix's mom Amy Whiteford, as she shared a photo she took of the heavy smoke she was subjected to, as flames surrounded the Napa Valley.

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"The fumes were so bad," recalled Whiteford. "It was different from just a wildfire where you are worried about particulate matter, but these were houses and garages that burned, house paint and refrigerators."

Now, eight-month-old Phoenix and his mom are part of a U.C. Davis study designed to examine the impacts of the North Bay fires on pregnant women.

"We have a lot of women that seem to be very interested because I think they're wondering the same things," explained Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, the lead public researcher for the pregnancy study. "What was I exposed to, what am I still being exposed to and what effects this could have on their child?"

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The pregnancy research is part of a larger set of October wildfire studies launched by U.C. Davis with funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health.

Everything from the air to the soils in Napa, Santa Rosa and surrounding areas is being studied.

Phoenix is a happy, healthy baby, but his parents want to learn as much as they can--and maybe help others--by participating.

After all, Phoenix didn't get his name by accident.

"Driving through the ashes I said 'Something good has to come out of this fire,'" said Whiteford, "and I said 'oh, I think there's a word for Phoenix."

For more information on the study or to volunteer, click here.

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