Scientists study what 11 days of wildfire smoke could do to our bodies long-term

DAVIS, Calif. (KGO) -- The rain may have improved air quality around the Bay Area, but scientists are just starting to study how 11 days of breathing in the smoky air has impacted our long-term health.

"We are worried about this becoming more frequent and becoming the norm with people being exposed to this level of air pollution," UC Davis scientist Keith Bein said.

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Bein is with the Center for Health and Environment at UC Davis, where they are taking filters that collected particulates in the Oakland hills this month and are studying the toxicity. What is normally collected over four weeks in a filter accumulated in just six hours. That's what our lungs filtered as well.

"This is something we've never seen before. This is unprecedented in the Bay Area. We really don't know how to respond," Bein said.

His filters will be used by health researchers to look at how this new kind of pollution will affect various organs in our bodies.

"If it goes for a few weeks is that really an acute exposure? Or is that a chronic exposure? Especially if it's happening year after year," public health sciences professor Irva Hertz-Piccioto said.

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She has already surveyed 6,000 people from the 2017 fires. She's broadening that out now to include those affected by smoke in 2018.

Public health professor Rebecca Schmidt is also looking into how the smoke impacts pregnant women and eventually their new babies.

Schmidt said things like placenta and cord blood might give them a window into what chemicals or compounds the baby was exposed to.

Researchers say they are excited to start work on the smoke studies as they push other projects aside to streamline the data. They hope to have some answers by next spring.

We have more articles related to the Camp Fire here.
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