Deadly wildfires which raged through northern California during August and September may lead to 3,000 early deaths, new research from Stanford University has found.
More than 3.6 million acres of land in California has burned since the beginning of the year, with 2020's wildfires 26 times worse than the same period in 2019.
Since August 15, there has been 26 fatalities and more than 7,600 structures damaged or destroyed in fires which have burned larger and faster than ever experienced before.
Now academics have estimated the wildfires may have killed 1,200 people, who would not have died otherwise, and caused an extra 4,8000 emergency doctor visits for the elderly.
Scientists believe the estimated number of deaths can reach to 3,000 for those over the age of 65 in just California alone, with Oregon and Washington also being hit by the wildfire smoke.
They said the total cost of human lives is far greater due to the immense amount of smoke which has been inhaled over the past three weeks.
"Clean air is much more important than we realise," Marshall Burke told the Mail Online, an associate professor of earth system science at Stanford, who calculated the impact of the wildfires.
"When you look at it on a population level, you can see very clearly that breathing clean air has huge public health benefits, and breathing dirty air has disastrous consequences."
The data also states that early evidence suggest poor air quality could worsen Covid-19 outcomes.
Research looks at the mortality rate in the elderly and the number of ER visits, but other groups are severely affected such as those with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions or the very young.
Also, the effects could amplify over time following exposure to terrible air over a long period of time, for seven days or more. But the data by Stanford University has not included this.
Burke described the fatalities as "hidden deaths".
Rescue crew find adorable pup trapped under wreckage left by deadly wildfire
He said: "These are people who were probably already sick but for whom air pollution made them even sicker."
Scientists looked at the PM2.5 levels.
PM2.5 refers to particles that are 100 times thinner than human air, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, and remain suspended for longer.
They are formed from burning fuel, outdoor pollution, diesel and wood burning, and chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Inhaling particles this small can lead to respiratory and heart problems, as they get deeper into the lungs and may even enter the bloodstream.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure of particle pollution can lead to premature death in people with lung or heart disease, irregular heartbeat, non-fatal heart attacks, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma and difficulty breathing.
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People with pre-existing conditions, children or older adults are more likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.
On September 9, San Francisco transformed into the "end of the world" as the sky turned into an ominous orange.
The Golden Gate Bridge was blanketed by thick smoke following the wildfires that were some of the worse in America's history.
Reports said the smoke and ash were so dense, that the midday sun was blocked out.
Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated as thousands of firefighters struggled to fight the huge blazes that were ravaging the land.
"Recent wildfire activity has led to a massive increase in PM2.5 above normal levels," the scientists wrote.
"As anyone who lives in CA or has watched the news knows, air quality has been terrible, and the monitoring data of course bear this out."
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