Is wildfire smoke bad for your health?

Coloradans woke up to hazy skies Monday morning, as smoke from the Morgan Creek wildfire near Steamboat Springs prompted air quality health advisories from Routt to Summit counties, and smoke from fires in California cast an eerie glow across the Front Range. As recently as 12 years ago, researchers had little understanding of how such smoke impacts human health—if at all, says Colleen Reid, an assistant professor of geography who in 2008 became one of the first U.S. researchers to study the health impacts of wildfire smoke.

“Back then, there was a sense that it was ‘natural’ air pollution, and if it was bad it was only short-term, so it was not as much of a concern as pollution from factories and refineries and vehicles,” she says. “What we are realizing now, as these episodes of exposure last longer, is that wildfire smoke can have measurable and potentially lasting health impacts.”

Read more about JPB Fellow Colleen Reid research.