Wildfire Consequences
In December, as the world turned its attention to the bushfires ravaging Australia, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report on an earlier disaster: the California wildfires of 2017 and 2018. The report summarizes the presentations given at a workshop that discussed the implications of the California wildfires, including potential health effects, the difficulties of recovery operations, and ideas for improving responses to wildfires. The contamination of local drinking water systems from wildfires was a point of emphasis. Information from the report appears below.
From “Implications of the California Wildfires for Health, Communities, and Preparedness: Proceedings of a Workshop”:
“Wildfires are creating a new model of a public health crisis…. Wildfires are intensive and unplanned long-term events that pose complex and wide-ranging problems. Population growth, climate change, weather extremes, intermittent droughts, record rains, and other factors are interacting in ways that are difficult to dissect, understand, and ameliorate. Earthquakes, mudslides, urban unrest, and other issues are usually here and then gone…. In contrast, large wildfires can go on for long periods of time and have wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts across large areas.”

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: “Implications of the California Wildfires for Health, Communities, and Preparedness(December 2019).
Tap on the graphic to open a larger version in your browser.
In August, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that a student intern and a researcher at Oak Ridge Associated Universities had devised an experiment to replicate the McCluskey incident in order to study the effects of radiation on the body. By irradiating vials of their own blood for different lengths of time, the researchers hope to generate data that clinicians and first responders can refer to following an exposure incident.

Read more from the News Sentinel.
Interested in helping those affected by wildfires?