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The Food Safety and Environmental Stewardship Laboratory is very interested in understanding the effect of wildfires on air quality. We have begun collecting samples before, during and after wildfires in the Pacific Northwest using community-engaged research.
Wildfires resulted in over ten million acres burned across the United States in 2017. Some of the biggest sources statewide were California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. The number of large wildfires (>1000 acres) have also increased by a rate of seven fires per year. Wildfire smoke contains many chemicals that may impact health, but these exposures are largely unknown. Passive samplers, due to their biomimic nature, ease of implementation, low cost and low maintenance in the field are an ideal approach for community-engaged research. In 2018 and 2019 during the wildfire season, each participant received a kit containing the passive samplers, an instruction packet and a survey. At each site, volunteers placed samplers in a room inside their home and outside their home.
2020 Sampling: Why are we sending wildfire sampling kits early this year?
Our goal is to sample the environment before, during and after wildfires. Over the past two years, we have gathered data from before and after wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. This year, we hope to gather environmental samples during an active wildfire. To do this, we are sending kits to all participants in mid-April. Once a fire is detected in your area, we will contact you and ask you to set up the samplers. This allows us to have a nearly immediate response, which is crucial given how quickly wildfires move.