Skip to main content

When you breathe in smoke from a wildfire, you’re probably inhaling more toxic chemicals than you realize.

Pollution from power plants and vehicles, pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals in waste can all make their way into trees and plants. When trees and plants burn, chemicals are released along with health-harming particulate matter in the smoke, gas and ash. Burning buildings add more chemicals to the mix.

Millions of people have been breathing that smoky air this year as the western US experiences another extreme fire year. By October 4, the 2020 season had already seen more than four million acres burned in California, doubling the state’s 2018 record with several weeks of wildfire risk still ahead.

Joshua S. Fu

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Joshua S. Fu discussed in The Conversation how chemicals compound the health effects of particulate matter from fires to create respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including asthma and cardiac arrest. To understand the risks, it helps to understand what chemicals people are breathing and how those chemicals get into smoke in the first place. Read the full article on The Conversation.

UT is a member of The Conversation, an independent source for news articles and informed analysis written by the academic community and edited by journalists for the general public. Through the partnership, we seek to provide a better understanding of the important work of our faculty.



Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,