Poor air quality after California fires safer than indoor air from biomass-burning in low-income countries
A Berkeley school of public health prof recently posted to the SPH listserv a great NASA link to high altitude photos of the southern California fires. You can click through several days worth of pics and see what conditions were like prior to the fires as well as tell when the winds kicked up as they carried dust plumes in areas unaffected by fire (for instance Oct 22nd).
The point the prof made was that as bad as the air is there, the particulate matter density of 200-300 micrograms per cubic meter (10x greater than average figures for US cities) is still less than the levels typically seen in biomass-burning homes in the developing world.
More efficient, hotter burning charcoal stoves are one immediate solution to indoor particulate matter (i.e. soot) in low-income homes. In Uganda for instance, Kampala residents use a huge amount of charcoal (my own estimate…) every day. The city’s air, not to mention the air in individual homes, has a great deal of suspended soot – you can easily smell it across the city during the peak cooking hours. Venture Strategies for Health and Development in Berkeley, together with an innovative Kampala for-profit stove manufacturer, are marketing the hotter burning stoves through targeted subsidies financed in part with carbon credits.
Perhaps one silver lining to the devastation in southern California will be greater awareness of the importance of high air quality.