New paper estimating the deaths due to the September 2020 wildfire smoke in Washington State

This week, our group published a new paper analyzing the increase in PM2.5 concentrations in Washington State due to a major wildfire smoke event that occured in September 2020. PM2.5 concentrations increased by an average of 97.1 μg/m3. Using a concentration response function method, we estimated potentially 92 excess deaths due to the wildfire smoke.

We also considered a thought-provoking hypothetical policy: what if all households living below the federal poverty level in Washington state received portable HEPA air cleaners?

The analysis considered the impact of varying levels of effectiveness of the air cleaners, but assuming 40% reduced PM2.5 concentrations, we estimated a 4% reduction in wildfire attributable deaths. While the 4% may seem small, it’s important that this is only for the single wildfire smoke episode in September 2020.

With climate change, and the possible increasing frequency of wildfire smoke events, wouldn’t it be interesting to evaluate the cost-benefits of low-income populations having PM2.5 exposure reductions over multiple years of the lifetime of a HEPA air cleaner?

Congratulations to Yisi Liu, for leading the analysis for our paper: