Wildfire Smoke Effects on Health: Implementing an Air Quality Alert System for UC San Diego
Wildfires in California have become a major issue, not only in terms of physical damage,but also in harmful health effects caused by wildfire smoke. During the last wildfire season, the Camp Fire in Butte County burned for weeks and prevailing winds blew that smoke all the way down to the Bay Area where air quality decreased to levels considered by the EPA to be ‘very unhealthy’ and even ‘hazardous’ in some areas (see Figure 1) (EPA AirNow). Schools wereclosed, games were cancelled, and at one time Northern California had the worst air quality in the world, above even China and India (Turkewitz and Richtel 2018). My own birthplace, Paradise, was almost completely burned down and my family in the Bay Area were among those who suffered from the horrible air quality caused by the smoke.
This project aims to answer the following questions: What are the health effects ofwildfire smoke and which populations are most sensitive to these effects? What alert systems are currently in place and how effective are they? What should be the recommendations given to students, faculty, and staff at UCSD during a wildfire smoke event?The result of the investigation into these questions is an air quality alert system forUCSD that includes both email alerts and a website. An email alert will be sent out to the entire 6 UCSD campus when air quality deteriorates to a specific threshold. The website link will be included in the email and contains information about air quality, vulnerable populations, and specific actions to take to reduce smoke exposure. The alert system will be managed by the Emergency Management & Business Continuity (EM&BC) of Environmental, Health, and Safety (EH&S) at UCSD.