Wildfire smoke is exposing millions of Americans to extreme pollution levels

164
21
2 days
(news.stanford.edu)
by nabla9

Comments

wintermutestwin
2 days

If you want to get an indoor air filter to clean up the toxic air that enters your home, I recommend an industrial solution. Go down to your local indoor growing shop and check out the carbon filters that the pot growers use to scrub the weed smell.

Get a filter like this: https://indoorgrowing.com/collections/vortex/products/profil...

And pair it with an inline fan to match like this: https://indoorgrowing.com/collections/vortex/products/vortex...

That gets you 400CFM of air cleaning power for ~$500. (you can get this stuff for much cheaper used as the margin on indoor pot growing has tanked)

Compare to a "designed for the home" air purifier like this: https://oransi.com/products/mod-hepa-air-purifier

Compared to my proposed industrial solution, the air purifier costs $100 more and is about 1/4 the CFM. The only pluses are that it looks pretty and is roughly 2/3 the DBA when running.

dynm
2 days

If anyone's interested in a cheaper and less powerful version I've done tests on a DIY purifier that's based on a similar design: https://dynomight.net/better-DIY-air-purifier.html It costs around $100 to build and delivers around 104 CFM (2.95 m^3/min) on high and around 71 CFM (2.02 m^3/min) on medium (where it's pretty quiet). Interestingly, this is nearly an equal "deal" to your solution: it's around 1/5 the price and around 1/4 as powerful.

If people are put off of installing an air purifier because of they price, I think they should try not to make perfect the enemy of good: Due to the way half-lives work, you get the biggest benefit in terms of cleaner air from the "first" CFM of power that you install.

hcurtiss
2 days

That dude (you?) compares his contraption to the same three filters taped randomly on a box fan. That's a little silly. I'm surprised it filters anything at all, as the air would simply flow between and around the filters. During Oregon's 2020 Labor Day fires many of us just taped standard 20"x20"x1" home filters to a standard box fan. You can tape all the way around it ensuring that all air passes through the filter, and the filters have pretty good ratings (we used MERV 11 and 13 filters). We found that they worked very well. Here's a picture of one of ours (we had three running in different places): https://photos.app.goo.gl/XkEKBdt5m8nN8NU7A

I don't have any numbers, but I strongly suspect for purposes of wildfire smoke they work as well as what that article is proposing.

dynm
2 days

It is me! I'll note that I've also done experiments comparing the effects of taping and not taping around the filters, which you can see here:

https://dynomight.net/2020/12/15/some-real-data-on-a-DIY-box...

hcurtiss
2 days

It's awesome that you've done all this work. I have to say, though, that this could just as well be evidence that your experiment is not designed terribly well. One would never build a home furnace with a filter that has gaps all the way around it.

dynm
2 days

Certainly you wouldn't, but keep in mind the blower in a home furnace is designed to push air through a filter. This is not the case with box fans, where (at least with the filters I used) the fan throughput vastly decreases when you add the tape. I'm pretty confident in my experiments, but I wouldn't claim this as a general result: It's just a sort of coincidence that the two factors (pushing more air overall and funneling a larger fraction of that air through the filters) happen to almost exactly cancel out. If you have a more powerful fan or you have filter media that creates less of a pressure barrier, then I'm pretty sure you will see a benefit from taping. But I was just worried about the box fan motor so I decided to remove them.

amluto
1 day

The purpose of these filters is entirely different. A furnace filter needs to prevent large particles from passing it, as such particles can deposit on the coil. Its utility is essentially -(particles missed). A room air purifier exists to remove particles. Its utility is (particles removed). Blowing additional air around that bypass the filter in an air purifier is harmless, whereas it can destroy your furnace or especially your A/C.

This is why the IKEA air purifier is a better design than a HEPA purifier.

Also people most certainly do build furnaces with gaps around the filter.

hcurtiss
9 hours

This is all wrong. Our furnace filters (and all furnace filters) filter particles specifically to clean the air. And with a MERV 13 or higher rating, they even filter Pm 2.5.

And, no, I’ve never seen a single furnace filter with intentional gaps around the filter.

amalcon
2 days

In addition to using the wrong type of filter, "roughly 2/3 the DBA" is not a terribly helpful statement because decibels are a log-scale unit. A 60dB sound will carry about 100x the energy of a 40dB sound. It's not super problematic at these levels, but if it were going from 60 to 80 then there's a real hearing damage concern.

kurthr
2 days

Actually, your ears are pretty close to logarithmic in perception so a difference of 20-40dB is a lot less than you might expect. Below a certain level ~40dBA it's hard to discern, because other noise sources dominate, but in a perfect anechoic chamber or alone in a cave you can hear significantly lower holding your breath. I've usually heard about sound Pressure levels at a specific distance (eg 1m) where 20dB is a 10x increase (not 10dB) while for sound POWER levels you're correct 10dB is a 10x increase and power is closer to our logarithmic perception.

Human hearing easily covers (and can distinguish loudness) over 5-6 orders of magnitude with ~1-3dB resolution.

   0dB is the limit of a young ear
   10dBA is normal breathing at 1m
   20dBA is a soft whisper at 10ft
   30dBA is a soft whisper (1m)
   40dBA is a very quiet library (no distance)
   50dBA is a coffee percolator (at 1m)
   60dBA is normal conversation 1m
   70dBA is a TV or a toilet flush 1m
   80dBA is an alarm clock 1m
   90dBA is a blender or shouting 1m
   100dBA is a circular saw or motorcycle 1m
   110dBA is a loud concert (no distance) or leaf blower (1m)
   120dBA is an ambulance siren or jack-hammer 1m
woah
2 days

The health danger cited by the article is PM 2.5 particles. From a quick skim, your proposed solution does nothing to help with fine particles.

hollerith
2 days

You are correct and the grandparent comment (relative to mine) is misguided -- at least as far as wildfire smoke is concerned.

Although wildfire smoke probably contains other pollutants, fine particulates are by far the most important, and the filter recommended by grandparent does not even claim to remove particulates: "effectively remove 99.5% of volatile organic compounds", it claims.

I have owned both kinds of filters -- the ones that remove volatile organic compounds (including activated-carbon ones as well as other types) and the ones that remove particulates (all of which happened to be HEPAs although I acknowledge that there are probably other types effective at removing wildfire smoke) -- since the 1980s. Also, I used my HEPAs to protect my lungs from the severe episodes of wildfire smoke in the Bay Area in Nov 2018 and Sep 2020.

I am (because of chronic illness) much more sensitive to volatile organic compounds than most people and have never been tempted to use my volatile-organic-compound filter against wildfire smoke, so not only is the filter advocated by grandparent insufficient for protecting lungs against wildfire smoke, it is IMO unnecessary.

wintermutestwin
2 days

>does not even claim to remove particulates: "effectively remove 99.5% of volatile organic compounds"

These filters are sold to pot growers who are specifically trying to remove the pot smell (VOCs) from the air so that's the focus of their claims.

Maybe I am making an incorrect assumption, but aren't VOCs smaller particles than the "bad stuff" from wildfire smoke?

hollerith
2 days

VOCs are individual molecules (in gaseous form) which of course are much smaller than wildfire-smoke particles and other forms particulate air pollution.

The point is that activated-carbon filters do little to remove wildfire smoke from the air.

wintermutestwin
2 days

Thanks for pointing out the issue. I'll make covers out of Merv 13 Filter Material. Too bad I can't measure CFM to test for the reduction of flow...

cronix
2 days

> The only pluses are that it looks pretty and is roughly 2/3 the DBA when running.

Well, the HEPA will remove a lot more particles than just a carbon air filter.

cameldrv
2 days

I don't think a carbon filter is what you want for wildfire smoke. A carbon filter will remove some chemicals in the air, but for particulates, which is mostly what smoke is, you need a particle filter, for example a HEPA filter. It doesn't need to be HEPA though -- a furnace filter will remove a lot of the particulates.

danans
2 days

Wildfire smoke is both particulates and strong odors from VOCs. A MERV13 particulate filter (HEPA is likely overkill) reduces PM2.5 and a carbon filter reduces the odor carrying VOCs.

keneda7
2 days

I recently switched from a carbon filter with a canfan to a medifyair MA-40. I think the medifyair is far superior to the straight carbon filter. It also is significantly quitter than my old set up and still pushed ~220 CPM. They are a little pricey but well worth it in my opinion.

humanistbot
2 days

An industrial air scrubber with a 3-stage filter at 500 CFM is now about $500 new on Amazon. They were a lot more expensive during the height of the pandemic. They're great, also critical if you are cooking with natural gas.

No referral link: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=air+scrubber

gre
2 days

The reviews for one of them says it's very loud and meant for constructions sites. Maybe one of them is quieter? (post a link if you find it!)

humanistbot
24 hours

These are loud, about as loud as a good stove hood. They are quieter than the hydroponic scrubbers recommended above. This isn't really the kind of device you have on all the time. I use it with an AQI monitor during high-particulate events like cooking, smog, wildfires, etc., to clean my apartment's air. The AQI outside where I live has routinely been around 100-150 PM 2.5, while a few runs for 5-15 minutes every time I leave or enter keeps it around 5-15.

It is hard but possible to have a conversation when it is on full speed. Mine has a knob you can adjust the fan speed, which obviously trades off with CFM, but makes it easier to have a conversation.

But they work really fast at max speed. I cook a lot in a hot oil wok on a gas stove. My "hood" is a fan built into my microwave above the oven that just recirculates air in the room, and I have just one small window in my kitchen. If I forget to turn my scrubber on while cooking, it only takes about 10-15 minutes for my PM2.5 sensor at the other end of my kitchen to go from 500+ to about 10.

wintermutestwin
2 days

Nice find!

amluto
1 day

This is a rather different thing. The carbon filter removes VOCs and maybe some ozone and NOx — it’s for gasses. A normal air purifier is for small particles. You can certainly do both, and you can surely add a MERV 13 or better filter to the “industrial” solution, but as you describe them, they address different problems.

subsubzero
2 days

I have an Oransi air filter, they are extremely well made and are priced accordingly. I have two so during work(wfh) both me and my Wife can be working in clean air envs(in our offices) and at night we put them into our bedrooms so we are breathing clean air overnight. Fun fact they also work well to get strong cooking smells out of the house/kitchen. Cannot recommend them enough.

silksowed
2 days

getting rid of strong kitchen smells and cleaning my air, i'm sold.

iancmceachern
2 days

We used to have one of those. They're so so loud and it's a bad kind of noise that wears on you. We've since moved to a admittedly more expensive iq air air filter that provides up tp 320 cfm and is nearly silent. Totally worth it.

laminarflow
2 days

Does anyone know of an air purifier that does not use proprietary filters?

It would be wonderful to pair some of the features of dedicated air purifiers (low noise, unobtrusive design, etc.) with the availability of standard 3M MERV HVAC filters stocked at Lowe's/Home Depot.

ycombinete
2 days

That would be so great. I was struggling to find this recently when shopping for an air purifier!

andbberger
2 days

box fan

Comment was deleted :(
hnuser123456
2 days

The home unit claims it goes up to 350 CFM

wintermutestwin
2 days

That's just the fan speed rating - not the filter's rating.

It's specs say it covers 1,312 sq ft (2 air changes per hour) Assuming 10foot ceilings, that comes out to 109CFM

causi
2 days

Is there any effective method for air purification that doesn't involve disposable supplies?

the8472
2 days

Maybe bubbling the air through water or a mist/air counterflow like scrubbers in coal plants? Throw in some UVC light source to keep germs from growing in the water. Are there UVC LEDs yet?

There also are electrostatic filters but they produce ozone.

zdragnar
2 days

There are, and they're finally getting cheap!

https://www.ebay.com/itm/114268507196

$4-5 USD per unit really isn't bad (plus power supply and resistors or controllers) compared to what they were a few years back.

(saw these on extractions & ire, the ones he got must be very durable since he way way way overpowered them)

saurik
12 hours

Joan you have to do something with the dirty water ;P.

wintermutestwin
2 days

The carbon filters like the one I linked could have been designed so that the activated charcoal could be replaced. Unfortunately, The companies who make these filters choose profits over environmental sustainability.

runnerup
2 days

No, sadly. Maybe trucking in liquified clean air and boiling it off into your house to create a positive pressure.

causi
2 days

I wonder how feasible it would be to construct an elastic air filter. When it's full you could take it outside, stretch it out, and blow all the crap out with a leaf blower.

runnerup
2 days

Maybe some day! But current materials science doesn’t have anything like that. It’s not usually about physical hole size, but rather electrostatic attraction (in the case of HEPA filters) or adsorption (in the case of activated carbon). There’s no “hole” to open to let things drop out. It’s a surface that things are somewhat bonded to.

causi
2 days

Maybe you could tote the machine outside, stretch it, and then electronically reverse the charge to make it easy to blow off contaminants.

Bloating
2 days

You can look into the electrostatic cleaners with a washable filter

causi
2 days

Do those actually work, though?

Bloating
2 days

Its like printers

nrdgrrrl
2 days
runnerup
2 days

Completely agree. Terrabloom is another good option with noise dampened products.

Bloating
2 days

For noise, you use insulated flexable duct snaked back and forth in several s-curves.

Bloating
2 days

Carbon filters the smell, but not particles. You need HEPA filter for that.

This isn't HEPA, but far superior option to your typical 1" HVAC filter. Higher MERV, less restrictive, lasts multiples longer:

Honeywell Home FC40R1011

nradov
2 days

How loud is it?

keneda7
2 days

The fans used to push or pull air through a carbon filter are typically pretty loud. Hard not to be when you are moving so much air. You can get quitter ones but they are expensive. If you are going the carbon filter/canfan route its most likely going to be loud. You can create a box around the fan with something like MDF to reduce the noise.

wintermutestwin
2 days

~68dba compared to the Oransi at 49dba (assuming max fan speed). The sound is only from the movement of air and is directly correlative to how much CFM you are moving.

zamfi
2 days

"Extreme" for the years since 2000, yes.

But folks living in cities in the 1970s-1990s were exposed to this level of particulate pollution almost half the year, not just a couple of weeks here and there.

For example, in 1980s Los Angeles, over 40% of the year had a modern AQI equivalent of 200+, "very unhealthy / hazardous air". [0]

None of this is to diminish the negative effects -- we know air quality is very important, it's why we've been fighting for it for decades.

[0] https://www.laalmanac.com/environment/ev01b.php

arcticbull
2 days

I mean yeah, but that's like saying 'extreme quantities of river fire? maybe for the 2000s! the cuyahoga used to catch fire every few months and thats the way we liked it.'

[edit] Fun fact: the cuyahoga did used to catch fire regularly, so much so that the famous photo people think of in reference to the incident that led to the creation of the EPA was actually from a previous fire.

nneonneo
2 days
arcticbull
2 days

It also caught fire briefly in 2020. [1]

[1] https://all-geo.org/highlyallochthonous/2020/08/the-cuyahoga...

selimthegrim
2 days

Well this is certainly going in the next sequel to the hastily made tourism video.

zamfi
20 hours

> thats the way we liked it

Absolutely not, nothing in my post suggested anything remotely close to “and it was better then”.

spoils19
2 days

Agreed 100% with you, this seeks to kick up a fuss for no reason, when hardened Americans already know how to deal with it.

amluto
2 days

> hardened Americans already know how to deal with it.

What do you mean? Most Americans who lived in such places complained a bit, took no action to protect themselves, and many are dead or chronically ill as a result.

TedDoesntTalk
2 days

> already know how to deal with it

You mean by dying prematurely?

jonnycomputer
2 days

Fire suppression is not the answer, though. North American ecosystems depend on regular fire to function. The increase in out-of-control wild fires on the west coast is a function of the coincidence of two trends: drought and a century of fire suppression and accumulating fuels.

julienchastang
2 days

Exactly. Fire suppression leads to even bigger fires down the road. Yet controlled burns are getting increasingly problematic. The New Mexico fires we had earlier this year were initially controlled burns that became dormant and spun out of control later. The yearly controlled burn time window is shrinking by one day a year because of climate change [0].

[0] https://www.wsj.com/articles/forest-service-to-halt-prescrib...

jonnycomputer
2 days

It's very easy to forget how long a big log can burn

MomoXenosaga
2 days

Well to be honest when you start to build houses in the forest voters want fire to be suppressed.

joe_the_user
2 days

Yeah, low-density luxury development in rural areas creates horrible effects.

mistrial9
2 days

how about low-density destination recreation on USFS lands run by politically connected ?

look on the maps for the last fifty years. Its contentious and they do it anyway.

jonnycomputer
2 days

Yes, it's true.

coding123
2 days

So basically no data to back this up.

nomel
2 days

There’s massive amounts of data, which is what drove the recent legislation to help with some of the hurdles that were preventing controlled burns: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-10-07/newsom-s...

As evidence of the smoke filled past, some of our plants even require fire to germinate! https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/8657/live_w_fire.pdf

jonnycomputer
2 days

No data to back what up.

Siddarth1977
2 days

No it's not a function of those two things, that's bullshit talking points from fossil fuel interests to deny climate change as being the dominant factor.

The value in regular small fires was understood science 80 years ago and has been a part of forest management for decades. Only in very limited places, generally wooded suburbs, has accumulation of fuels been a meaningful factor.

Talking about fire suppression in the current context is absurd. It's pointing the finger at the 0.01% cause and ignoring the 99.9% cause, which is climate change due to carbon emissions.

simonsarris
2 days

Climate change is not the dominant factor.

Pre-1800, about 1.8 million hectare burned each year in CA: https://www.sierraforestlegacy.org/Resources/Conservation/Fi...

> The idea that US wildfire area of approximately two million ha annually is extreme is certainly a 20th or 21st century perspective. Skies were likely smoky much of the summer and fall in California during the prehistoric period.

And from: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.201...

> Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago. Regarding fire severity, limited data are available. For the western USA, they indicate little change overall, and also that area burned at high severity has overall declined compared to pre-European settlement.

We have simply been lucky, so far, that mass settlement in an area of the US that experiences very regular fires and 200-year droughts has happened to affect us so little. In the past other civilizations have had to leave the area completely.

julienchastang
2 days

You basically have three components to the present wildfire situation: 1. climate change / mega-droughts, 2. fire suppression especially in contrast to Indigenous Peoples of the past who would burn forests according to agricultural practices, 3. land use change, i.e., much greater amount of urban / wild land mingling. (Edited: grammar / clarification).

nomel
2 days

I don’t believe this is correct, for California. Needed legislation was recently passed [1] to decrease liability and relax environmental restrictions, of the controlled burns, which both were largely responsible for preventing them [2], beyond people just not wanting them near their homes.

Here’s some history [3].

1. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-10-07/newsom-s...

2. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/sta...

3. https://massivesci.com/articles/megafire-california-climate-...

jonnycomputer
2 days

I'm not sure why you are taking so churlish a tone. Does you no favors. I don't think anyone here is trying to deny that climate change is an aggravating factor in the increasing frequency of large very destructive fires. But if the reaction to this is to stop including fire in our land management practices--as it well could--then that is bad.

Of course the frequency of forest fires is a function of drought conditions. Fuel aridity is the number 1 driver of wildland fire activity, particularly in the fire season. Fuel aridity in turn is a function of drought conditions, but also temperature. Increasing temperature (due to climate change, for example) increases the aridity, yes, but increasing temperature does not itself lead to drought. Warmer air can carry more moisture. Expected rainfall on the East Coast is expected to increase with climate change, and that would in turn decrease fuel aridity and the chance of fire. The western US had gone through centuries long periods of drought before, and it will again, with or without gw climate change (https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.0911197107). It's not even clear that you can say we'd not be having so severe a drought were anthropogenic gw were not happening.

And yes, the frequency, and more importantly, the extent and heat of wildfires, is a function of fuel availability. You are correct that controlled burns have been part of forest management practice for decades, but controlled burns are much too infrequent, and are frequently opposed for a variety of reasons (limited time of year, becoming more dangerous due to drought, local opposition, air quality concerns, budget issues, etc.). Can you show, with data, that there has been a decrease in fuel availability? I doubt it. Though increased fuel density is in turn a function of other things besides fire suppression.

Droughts happen with and without the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. The western US has gone through very prolonged droughts before, and it will again, with or without increases in temperature.

anonAndOn
2 days

Compare Yosemite valley from 1913 to 2021.[0] The valley meadows are mostly gone and types of trees have become a monoculture because of fire suppression. The NPS estimates 16,000 acres/year would burn in Yosemite before the fire suppression policy stopped the natural process.[1]

[0]https://i.redd.it/czk2mupwpaa81.png [1]https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/nature/firehistory.htm

guitarbill
2 days

A comparison would be nice. The smoke can be awful, no doubt - but is it worse for a person's health than living near a busy road or highway? That is 24x7, and cumulative over many years.

clsec
2 days

I would think so. I've lived right next to the Bay Bridge on 2nd St in SF and the amount of soot on my window sills and just inside my windows was a constant chore to clean up. At one point I found a map that stated I lived in the worst place for pollution in SF. I'm much happier now on the west side of the City.

Here's a different SF map showing where most of the exhaust is (PDF): https://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/ehsdocs/airquality/airpollut...

planetsprite
2 days

Here's a more detailed map which shows the actual levels for each part of the city in PM2.5 https://s.hdnux.com/photos/65/37/61/14023807/10/1200x0.jpg

wonder_er
2 days

I am curious to know this comparison as well.

I moved across town two years ago, into an expensive house (it's not a nice house, just an expensive house) that's directly adjacent to a road with lots of traffic, and I think every day about air quality now.

I also started riding a motor scooter around Denver (and across the country to British Columbia, then to Seattle, and back) and I wonder about protecting myself from road pollution while riding, especially in rush hour in cities.

I wonder if an n95 would improve things for me, and I wonder how much damage I'm doing to myself by breathing vehicle pollution (emissions, brake dust, tire rubber micro-plastics), eg: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/03/car-tyre...

I'm 33, I'm already resigned to not-great long-term health outcomes based on environmental contaminants in food and the air.

I avoid most meat (that gets me out of the factory farmed meat harm universe) and avoid most processed food, and am generally "healthy and active", but I despair of the world, for many reasons.

Ugggghhhhhhhh.

bombcar
2 days

Get some N95s and wear them for a few days, then look at how dirty they are.

Unscientific, but it'll tell you a bit.

Much of emissions may not be caught, but those are relatively "clean" now, brake dust and tire rubber falls to the ground relatively quickly (unless it's being kicked back up by the vehicles).

You can get various air quality meters, too.

landemva
2 days

Denver geography traps bad air into the occasional brown cloud. Get higher.

thegjp210
2 days

I'm sincerely curious as to what long-term health outcomes you ascribe to environmental contaminants in the food and air. Could you elaborate?

manmal
2 days

There was an article here on HN recently that linked air pollution to cancer via inflammation.

stinos
2 days

living near a busy road or highway?

Or, to stay in the same realm as wildfire smoke, living in a place where lots of wood stoves without filter? According to numbers I once saw seen in 'typical' small villages with no heavy industry, pollution from that is the biggest contributer, more than traffic and farming combined. Not 24x7 though.

jejeyyy77
2 days

Would love to see this comparison too. I rented a 30th floor apartment literally next to a major highway once.

My Dyson Purifier never reported anything though.

mensetmanusman
2 days

Highly recommend room air purifiers for your kids at least.

I like to tell new parents a trick that worked well for us: use a nice filter-based air purifier for white noise. It has deep bass, and it keeps the air near the child extremely clean. We have been doing this for our many kids for almost 10 years now since birth.

A fun experiment for kids: if you have a laser pointer, shine it close to the ground indoors and kick up dust near the floor. If you see any light in the air, that is all stuff you are breathing in (works really well on carpet)…

Air quality associated with:

Alzheimers: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-new-alzheimer...

Cancers, plural: https://www.aacr.org/patients-caregivers/progress-against-ca...

Sperm Quality: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4443398/#sec995...

Female Fertility: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2207560-exposure-to-air...

Autism: https://www.sciencealert.com/particulate-matter-in-air-pollu...

Bipolar/Depression: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/air-p...

MichaelCollins
2 days

Those filters are probably stripping all of the pollen out of the air too. Aren't you worried about giving your kids allergic reactions to being outside?

anonAndOn
2 days

Maybe it's not an issue if they're getting sufficient exposure during the day by playing outside? To adapt an old endurance mantra: Train high (exposure), rest low (exposure).

mensetmanusman
1 day

Indoor air has a lot of plastic dust.

pesfandiar
2 days

My understanding is the stuff you can see are not a huge problem. They get trapped in the nose, sinuses, or lungs and get pushed out eventually. The problem is much finer particulates (PM2.5) that enter your bloodstream.

mensetmanusman
2 days

This is true, the stuff you see with a laser is very small and would fit within the PM2.5 range. (That’s because green light will scatter from particles less than 100 nm in diameter, and our eyes are super sensitive to green).

tzs
2 days

I was surprised by how many people go out on very bad air days without taking precautions.

We had a couple days or so here (Puget Sound area of Washington) with the AQI somewhere in the 150-200 range. I needed to go shopping on one of those days. I stepped outside and took a couple of breaths just to check how bad it was. It was terrible. I then put on a KN95 mask which made it a lot better and went to do my shopping.

Almost no one else I saw was wearing a mask.

When masks were still required for COVID around 98% of people I saw while shopping were wearing masks, so I'm pretty sure a majority here still have masks leftover from that.

Does it just not occur to them that those masks also help with wildfire smoke?

WalterBright
2 days

Interestingly, on those days the air inside the supermarket smelled clean (not like smoke). Apparently, their HVAC system was good enough to filter out the smoke.

The air was significantly better in my house, too. I had installed some better air filters in the HVAC system.

I avoided doing anything that would make me breathe hard, i.e. do as little physical activity as practical.

The air quality is "good" today, so I'm going out for a run.

hypersoar
2 days

In 2018, I got on the local news in Seattle for wearing an N95 on a bad smoke day.

Probably wouldn't be so newsworthy today.

MichaelCollins
2 days

My preferred mask is ineffective at stopping smoke. It fits on my face such that I breath air through gaps by the sides of my nose; this provides no relief from smoke. I think it would block most drops of spittle released from my mouth while talking or breathing, but provides me with negligible protection against breathing in aerosols or smoke. Masks that work properly are too uncomfortable for me to wear.

charleslmunger
2 days

If you don't mind looking like a comic book villain, try the 3M HF-800 series with p100 filters. The silicone is very comfortable and it has a button for self-fit-test, which allows you to loosen the straps while remaining confident that you are protected. The large amount of filter surface area results in very low breathing resistance, and the exhalation valve improves comfort for extended wear.

puffoflogic
2 days

Given that 99% of mask use was signaling, it might really not occur to most people that they actually have some effective use.

zamfi
2 days

I assume yours is an off-the-cuff take here, but more than 1% of people wearing masks thought they were at least somewhat effective at reducing spread, and not just a shibboleth.

puffoflogic
2 days

Someone thinking that the masks were somewhat effective at reducing spread, but still only wearing them because signal, is entirely consistent.

zamfi
2 days

Sure, so I'll spell it out for you: More than 1% of people wore masks because they thought it would have an effect, not "only wearing them because signal".

boomchinolo78
2 days

They certainly don't help with PM2.5 Also let's not forget some people come from places where the AQ is like that, constantly for a big fraction of the year. Ever been to China or Mexico City?

Edit: Ok, if we're talking about KN95 then that's another story, I'm talking about the usual "face mask" which is little more than a fashion piece.

flaviut
2 days

> They certainly don't help with PM2.5

The requirement for a mask to be called KN95 is that it must filter out 95% of PM2.5 particles.

> AQ is like that, constantly for a big fraction of the year. Ever been to China or Mexico City?

Honestly, I'm not sure why those people don't wear a mask year round. I'd expect the rationale to be cultural, "no one else is doing it", rather than logical.

jerlam
2 days

South Korea made their own non-industrial pollution mask standard, KF94, because they get so much pollution from China. Also, many of the older air purifier brands (Coway, Winix) are South Korean.

Comment was deleted :(
jjcon
2 days

Would having a few days of bad air a year due to forest fires be worse than camping a few days a year sitting next to a big campfire? Depends on if the fires are burning things other than trees?

Syonyk
2 days

The problem is that it's not "a few days." It varies from "Several weeks of absolutely toxic outside air" to "several months." Typical campfire exposure is "A few hours, and if you're not downwind of it constantly, not inhaling that much smoke off it." Jokes about how 360 degrees of campfire are "downwind" ignored...

But a good hot campfire shouldn't be smoking that much, either.

bombcar
2 days

Yes, by far, and you can even see it. When the entire air is foggy and orange with dust and ash and smoke, it's much different than when you are near a fire.

marricks
2 days

It's not just a few days though. I can only speak anecdotally for the pacific north west but...

We used to be known for clean air, rating were typically below 20 AQI for almost all of the year. Now, come fall we have weeks/months hovering around 50 AQI.

How much smoke does it take to move places like Seattle and Portland from clean air paradises to "LA of the 00's" where just living there gives you the lungs of a light smoker?

dylan604
2 days

Just think of it as training for when the Yellowstone super volcano lets go and burns the entire American NW.

sbdncuvh
2 days
lightedman
2 days

The smoke levels in the Western USA are horrible, and are only going to get worse due to the inability of state administrations to allocate proper funding for brush clearing and controlled burns, and this is only compounded by the drought we're experiencing.

x86_64Ubuntu
2 days

I remember reading an article about the wildfires which was super eye-opening. Basically they said they could burn 100K acres a year, and still have an unacceptable fuel load for about 40 years.

While controlled burns are the prescription, the political risk is too high in the sense that if a controlled burn breaks containment heads will roll. It doesn't help that even during controlled burns that don't escape, localities will complain about the smoke to their local reps who put the kibash on controlled burns.

jerlam
2 days

100K burned acres a year though isn't a lot though.

The past five years, California has averaged well over 1 million acres burned a year.

Even in the decade before that, 250K burned acres would be considered a light year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_California_wildfires#A...

x86_64Ubuntu
1 day

Goodness, the amount of area burned in the past two years is enormous compared to the years prior.

dahart
2 days

> are only going to get worse

I’m so thankful this year was mostly smoke free, but last year was a dystopian nightmare for like 3 or 4 months, it ended all outdoor activity for most of the summer and fall. Out of desperation, I resorted to riding my bike a few times wearing a ventilator mask, but wow was that uncomfortable. I’m really not looking forward to worse, but of course I know you’re probably right. With the size & scale of these fires I keep wondering how everything flammable hasn’t burned already in the last five or six years?

bombcar
2 days

Which mask were you using? The quite expensive "all day" ones for painters can be relatively comfortable, and the ones that look like beekeeper hats even more so.

dahart
2 days

I was using a cheap disposable N95 ventilator from Home Depot. Yeah if it gets bad again I will take your advice and invest in a professional mask. Sweating into the mask was probably the worst part, I was having to remove it often to wipe everything down, and the mask was kind of starting to disintegrate after a couple hours. It was, in a weird way, nice to get shocked with the taste & smell of smoke every time I took off the mask, I could tell it was working and helping keep my air much cleaner.

Syonyk
2 days

Oh, yeah. Those are vile to use for long periods of high airflow.

Get a 3M half face painter's mask, some of the new-style P100 filters (white with a pink hashing over it, not the older style full pink ones), and you'll be a lot happier. Not only do they filter far better, they're much more comfortable to wear for sustained outdoor work. You'll still sweat some, but they won't disintegrate, and I find them not at all annoying like the paper ones I've used in the past. I use mine for just about everything in the summer - even mowing and firebreak cutting are far improved with the filters.

dahart
2 days

> I use mine for just about everything in the summer

I’m shedding a tear about my/our future where this is really widespread out of necessity - just being outside might call for daily mask use. You guys are convincing me to go pick up the highest quality reusable mask I can now!

Syonyk
2 days

I can't say I'm a huge fan of it, but quality of life from being able to do this is far nicer than suffering through lungfulls of smoke every time I'm outside.

Neil Stephenson's latest includes the concepts of "Earthsuits," with filtration and refrigeration and such, used to go outside when wet bulb is too high to survive unaided (and to be more comfortable in general in the heat). They seem a more and more useful concept...

charleslmunger
2 days

For a specific recommendation try the 3M HF-800 series with p100 filters. The silicone is very comfortable and it has a button for self-fit-test, which allows you to loosen the straps while remaining confident that you are protected. The large amount of filter surface area results in very low breathing resistance, and the exhalation valve improves comfort for extended wear.

bombcar
2 days

Yeah, the slightly more expensive N95s are nice (I use https://www.homedepot.com/p/Milwaukee-N95-Professional-Multi... for example) but the big ones are really more comfortable.

Sweat is always the main problem after you tighten the bands enough that you're not leaking air on the sides.

And if you're getting irritants in your eyes, you may want to go to a full face mask; zee goggles don't do much except against falling nails, dirt, etc.

dahart
2 days

That Milwaukee one is exactly the mask I bought. :) I found the similar 3M version to be quite a bit more comfortable for me, but I don’t know why. I assumed you were talking about the reusable ones like https://www.homedepot.com/p/3M-OV-P95-Paint-Project-Reusable...

Yeah I think I probably was having just a touch of eye stinging from the smoke. Now I’m really curious what it would be like to ride a bike with a full face like https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/p/c/ppe/respiratory-protection/r... Maybe the sweat issue would be easier to tolerate if it’s around the outside of my face? :shrug:

bombcar
2 days

Yeah the second is the upgrade from the first (but see the other thread for detailed recommendations). All the N95s that are disposable work for general quick things, but they are not comfortable or the best.

pengaru
2 days

In CA, which amounts to a good junk of the west coast, over half the forest acres are under the Fed's purview. AIUI that split of jurisdictions is a significant part of the problem.

jfk13
2 days

> a good junk of the west coast

What a delightful turn of phrase!

pengaru
2 days

Hah! The sad thing is that wasn't even autocorrect, just being half asleep.

someguydave
2 days

Not to mention millions of acres of federal forests where natural fires are quenched and logging is prohibited

ortusdux
2 days

https://crosscut.com/environment/2022/02/billions-federal-do...

https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/04/inside-washingtons-328...

Unfortunately, it seems that forest management funding is a political issue, so there is a good chance these funds will dry up depending on the outcome of the midterms.

FollowingTheDao
2 days

> brush clearing and controlled burns

If you think you can combat climate change with "brush clearing and controlled burns" you are mistaken.

mistrial9
2 days

that brush clearing and controlled burns is specific to drought-stricken forests

FollowingTheDao
2 days

So maybe just burn the whole forest down? That'll solve it.

MomoXenosaga
2 days

This happend in France last summer a few times. Control fires got completely out of hand and turned into full apocalypse wild fires.

Turns out that fire is hard to manage...

mistrial9
2 days

yeah - here also with the Hermit's Peak fire due to a prescribed burn, Las Dispensas, Sante Fe New Mexico National Forest, May 2022. They had to evacuate the Los Alamos National Labs ! iir.. catastrophic wildfire

newaccount2021
2 days

Plenty of CA money available to fund pissing-match billboards in FL and TX though, go figure

Apparently the people have spoken...teacher pay, water management, brush clearing? These are less important than the "war" with Rick DeSantis over....what exactly?

azinman2
2 days

Most of what burns is federal land.

DiffEq
2 days

This is a wild idea…but perhaps people can spend a few less hours watching the tv and surfing the social web and volunteer to clean up the dead underbrush that allows such fires to spread so violently and frequently.

bombcar
2 days

This basically occurs in other parts of the country where much of the existing forest is maintained timber land. The problem is the absolute scale of the size of the western "unmaintained forest land" which includes national parks, state parks, BLM land, etc.

hindsightbias
2 days

They never talk about who did all that brush clearing and controlled burns back in the day. Something something native Americans did 200 years ago, do they expect them to return?

dbrueck
2 days

Hehe, you are woefully underestimating the size of the Big Blue Room.

mc32
2 days

The western US is only able to support this level of population due to modern infrastructure. In other words the population density is being subsidized by technology to accommodate beyond its carrying capacity.

So more technology and resource management (diversion) or relocate the population to naturally sustainable areas.

buscoquadnary
2 days

We have been above the environmental carrying capacity due to technology since the first guy in Mesopotamia realized if he dug a ditch to grab some of the water from the Euphrates he could get water to repeatedly water his crops.

Thats the whole history of humanity has been figuring out a way to make a locality more hospitable to human beings using technology. What you say on the surface sounds reasonable but really is just a veneer of neo-ludtisim over a malthusian mindset. Humanity has changed the environment, we will do so again and again to improve the quality of life we experience.

mc32
2 days

You can't expect things to output 100% 100% of the time. Things will fail and if you make plans on 100% always being there, you will then have catastrophic failures. That is if your plan is to rely on your ducks always being in a row, you will fail because systems being systems will have ducks that stray resulting in failure. So yeah maybe we can sustain 100MM people in the west if all things work perfectly, but when they fail, then there will be pain and suffering because there is no surplus to play with.

buscoquadnary
2 days

“spend all the wages they earn and enjoy themselves while they can appears to be evident from the number of families that, upon the failure of any great manufactory, immediately fall upon the parish,” - Sir Thomas Malthus

Who predicted that we'd all be dead and the collapse would come hundreds of years ago, and said letting the Irish potato famine kill them off was natural, requisite and just. Yet, here we are still defying the Malthusian imperative, just like when everyone said the world was going to end when the Gulf states controlled all the oil, then we figured out how to make shale oil work, or before that when we invented the iron plow, or a dozen other things that have shown Malthus wrong time and time again. Meanwhile the people protesting scarcity and the need to reduce the consumption of resources have consistently been behind the greatest man made famines in history.

We figured out things before we will figure it out again, I have faith in the ability of humanity to innovate, to adapt and to overcome.

8note
2 days

This is why we have so much food waste - things are running way above 100% all the time, and failures bring us closer to 100%

mistrial9
2 days

> veneer of neo-ludtisim over a malthusian mindset

sure, I will take that veneer and counter -- there is such a thing as balance in dynamic systems. Tragedies of excess are being played out now, seventy years after a "boom times for all" expansion by any means necessary. Before 1970, outrageously excessive pollutors in many areas of the USA were given slap on the wrist oversight, calling the outraged greens things like "neo-luddites" ..

Comment was deleted :(
Syonyk
2 days

Yeah... living in the Treasure Valley area (Boise metro region), it's been getting pretty bad out here. And they don't have 2021 data listed, which, IMO, was worse than 2020. It just settled in early and never left all summer long. Quite vile, and makes being outside a challenge. I did a lot of outdoor work in 2020 and I'm pretty sure I've not been quite the same since, and I seem far more sensitive to smoke than I was.

> ...“which means an increasing portion of the particulate matter that people are exposed to is unregulated.”

Forests, annoyingly, don't respond to regulations on if they're allowed to burn or not. And while it's certainly popular and at least somewhat reasonable to blame a lot of it on climate change, the reality is that this has been inevitable for quite a few decades - the question was just, "When?"

Starting in the late 1930s, the US Forest Service had their 10AM Policy of basically putting forest fires out as soon as possible. Starting in the late 1940s, after WWII, they actually had the mechanized equipment and airplanes to start doing that effectively - with a corresponding reduction in acres burned.

Unfortunately, "things that can't go on forever won't," and that approach to forest management can't go on forever. The forest ecosystems, especially in the west, need to burn. Lots of species of pine only seed after fire, and it goes through clearing the underbrush, killing weak trees, etc. But the "standard forest fires" of the western pine forests aren't the catastrophic crowning events that have been more and more standard for the past decade or two - because there's so much fire load from 70 years of not burning, when they do catch fire, they go off like a bomb. And that's before you find things like the pine beetle killed swaths of forest down in New Mexico, which means thousands of acres of wind-dried, long dead pine, waiting to catch fire. One doesn't fight that, one gets out of the way.

So, unfortunately, climate change or not, this sort of thing was inevitable, eventually. And there's really no chance to do much until the forests "reset" back to a more sustainable fire load.

And, yes, I'll agree with "extreme" pollution levels. I've measured PM2.5 into the 150s, and PM10 north of 250 out here before. It's... disgusting? Vile? Human-toxic? Just being outside is painful.

I've been dealing with it indoors with air filters - I have one of the "build a box of filters around a fan" style filters that does a fine job of keeping indoor air quality acceptable, at least on a fairly tight house. The furnace filter does a good job too, though I'm pretty sure I need to get the ducts cleaned.

For outdoor work, I've given up and gone to wearing a 3M painter's half mask with P100 filters. They do a fine job of it, and the newer-style P100s (white with pink grids, not the solid pink ones) breathe freely enough for just about anything with two of them on the mask. One could run with them, though I'm not sure that sounds a great idea.

I'm seriously considering a winter project of building something positive pressure, though. A filtered feed into a face mask would be very nice for outdoor work on the "really bad" years. It's not just breathing the air that's vile, it's the air in my eyes. Running down the road on a motorcycle in bad air is just... not enjoyable. And we don't have the surplus vehicles to all take cars when there's vehicle conflict. I'm seriously debating rigging the positive air pressure filtration setup to a motorcycle helmet as well. Just... get me something less-vile when riding.

All this to say, "Yeah, it's gotten really bad out west." I just don't see a path for it to change any time soon, so I'm trying to adapt to it as best I can.

Some writings of mine on non-internet-connected air quality sensors and details on the filters I've built: https://www.sevarg.net/2021/08/28/temtop-air-quality-sensors...

bombcar
2 days

I wonder if you can find a "bunny suit" helmet large enough to go over a motorcycle helmet. Some seem to have a pretty wide head piece: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_pressure_personnel_su...

Sure, you'd look like a moonman when you roll into town, but you'd be comfortable, especially if you added cooling.

Syonyk
2 days

I mean, I'm already showing up with a sidecar, most of the time. I don't think much will make me look weirder. But I was thinking of just sealing up the neck with some variety of stretchy thing, injecting filtered air down there, and seeing what happened. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with the reduced visibility of anything that went over the helmet.

bombcar
2 days

I've seen little plastic "cabs" that go on tractors for all-weather action, perhaps you just need to modify the motorbike itself. :D

sneak
2 days

It's called a PAPR and there are good full face ones from China that are dirt cheap. They take the old style screw on gas mask filters which can be easily adapted to 3m bayonet filters.

Domestic fancy ones are over a grand, or at least they were during covid when I last looked.

Wyoming23
2 days
Syonyk
2 days

> The nonsense about blaming the forest service for putting out a few fires a century ago is like creationists asking why there are still apes if humans evolved from apes.

I'm sorry, I can't agree with that. Have you seen charts of "acres burned per year" in the US for the time frame in question?

I did a bunch of research on western forest fires some years back (summary here: https://www.sevarg.net/2018/08/12/wildfires-in-western-unite...), and part of that was creating a graph of "acres burned per year" based on some data sources that were only in textual format. I really should update it.

https://www.sevarg.net/generated/images/2018-08-11/2018-08-1... is the relevant chart. Back in the 1930s, north of 50M acres/year were burned. The Forest Service "10AM Policy" went into effect in 1935, and you can see the rapid reduction from 50M acres/yr down to 3-5M acres/yr by the 1960s. That low level sustained for quite a few years, and has been creeping back up towards around 10M acres/yr recently - you can find the raw data source I used, with a few more years than on that chart, here: https://www.nifc.gov/fire-information/statistics/wildfires

So... I think your assertion that "it's 100% climate change," given the historical data I've presented, is lacking in evidence. Unless you're going to argue that, somehow, climate change was causing 5-8x the acres burned in the 1930s as now. My interpretation fits the evidence of "aggressive and capable wildfire fighting" as responsible for the vast reduction in acres burned, and that we're seeing just the start of a reversion to historical norms - which involve an awful lot more acres burned than even recent years.

photochemsyn
2 days

It's a complex issue. Comparisons to the early 20th century have issues - for example, California's human population was about five million then, and it's forty million now, and was twenty million in 1970. There's been deforestation, movement of people into the woods, some replacement of pines by oaks, etc.

Regardless, the five-fold increase in wildfires since 1970 in California are closely correlated with the amount of moisture in soil and vegetation in the summer, and fossil-fueled global warming is the culprit for that shift:

> "Most of the increase in burned area seen since 1972 has been because of an increase in summer forest fires, mostly in Northern California and the Sierras. That increase, in turn, can be almost entirely explained by a rise in aridity, which is caused by warming, and consistent with climate change models. Just a small amount of warming causes exponential increases in aridity, drying out fuels, so summer forest fires could get a lot worse with further warming if fuels remain abundant."

https://www.nps.gov/articles/how-is-climate-change-already-i...

Retric
2 days

Acres burned per year is a poor metric as the amount of wild land has changed dramatically over time. 3.5 million people lived in CA in 1920 vs 10.3 million in 1950.

The reality is you can find wildfires burning vigorously in areas that had a wildfire the year before. The state only has ~100 million ares of land in total. When that chart is showing annual averages of 50+ million ares that includes some of the same land being burned the previous year. Not that those statistics are going to be very accurate but it’s what we have.

Syonyk
2 days

My numbers, I believe, are for the entire US - not just California.

Retric
2 days

Sure, but not all of CA let alone the US is at risk from forest fires, so the point stands.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Valley#/media/File:Death...

cronix
2 days

Do your numbers differentiate between intentional, planned burns vs natural fires (lightning, etc) or just lump them together to get "total acres burned?" My understanding is we used to do a lot more intentional burning.

bombcar
2 days

There are two kinds of intentional burns - one where you intentionally light the fire to burn off an area (perhaps done after logging or refreshing a field) and one where you let an area burn because you don't care or don't want to defend it.

I believe the metric here is just "total acres burned" and I doubt intentional burning would count for forty million acres which is just insanely large.

SllX
2 days

The reason you don’t oversell your case is because that isn’t persuasive.

In this case, it’s not “a few fires a century ago” it’s consistently suppressing fires over the course of a century. California has an environment that wants to burn, and we just live in it. If we suppress the fires that can be suppressed, we leave around more material that otherwise would have burnt away, leaving mass around that is prone to burn anyway but will now continue to accumulate in the same space for a while longer until fires we can’t suppress burns it all away. Those fires are massive, and threaten entire towns and are much more difficult to control.

So yeah, our forestry policy has left a lot to be desired.

bombcar
2 days

People also don't understand that it is not additive! If brush burns off as it is "supposed" to do, the large trees can survive the fire, because the fire is relatively "contained".

But once there's enough brush built up, the fire is NOT as limited, and now it will burn all the accumulated brush AND the large trees, leaving nothing behind. That's a lot more burning.

Wyoming23
2 days

Again, everything you said is technically true... And functionality irrelevant.

California's over-suppression of fires is a bad thing that made the problem worse. But that's still only a tiny fraction of the problem compared to the 800lb gorilla in the room, which is climate change.

We're focusing on the 1% and ignoring the 99% here, in terms of casual factors.

SllX
2 days

If California had a different climate with different native species, you would have a point.

By over-emphasizing climate change as the causal factor, you’re completely disregarding the conditions that existed prior. Wildfires were going to happen even without climate change. Probably the same wildfires, with the same amount of brush. It’s not that climate change isn’t a problem, it’s that you’re not persuading anyone that it is by over-selling it, nor would fixing climate change actually fix the issues caused by poor forest management in California. It also takes away from the fact that our forest policy is poor and as an issue also needs to be resolved independent of any actions we take to resolve climate change.

subsubzero
2 days

Nope. I have to rebuke these false arguments every time they spring up like weeds on threads like these. In California it was absolutely not climate change that caused the worst fires the state has ever seen during covid. It was Governor Newsom who slashed the fire fighting budget and then lied about it[1]. In addition he closed a large percentage of firecamps that use prisoners to help fight fires making a already bad situation much worse[2]. In addition serial arsonists spurred by either severe lockdowns or other factors contributed to many of California's biggest fires[3]. But don't trust my comments, look to a actual scientist(USGS) to explain whats really going on [4].

[1] - https://laist.com/news/climate-environment/newsom-wildfire

[2] - https://www.firehouse.com/operations-training/wildland/news/...

[3] - https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2018/08/15/arsonists-ca... and https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/19/us/california-wildfires-g... and https://www.justice.gov/usao-edca/pr/redding-man-pleads-guil...

[4] - https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/11/04...

Wyoming23
1 day

And I assume then that Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and Canada all also had governors to blame for their record-setting wildfires during the same period?

This list is silly political finger pointing by someone mad about covid restrictions and making a case against a politician.

All the factors here are the 1% of minor mistakes that made a few fires a little bit more impactful, but it's climate change that made the entire state a tinder box. Who cares what sparked it.

bombcar
2 days

This simplistic viewpoint would imply that if we suddenly reversed climate change and entirely eliminated all fossil fuel and other carbon emissions, the forests wouldn't burn because ...

Wyoming23
2 days

No, that's a complete strawman.

Wildfires are happening earlier in the spring and later in the fall due to climate change. They spread faster and burn hotter and are more likely to start in first place because of climate change.

If we reversed climate change... Things would just go back to pre-industrial levels. Fires would happen in the summer. They'd be smaller, rarer and more easily mitigated.

user3939382
2 days

Yeah unfortunately as other comments noted, you're wrong. It's nice and noble that you care about climate change as we all should, but this problem isn't that simple. Wild fires are part of the Earth's natural cycle in some regions and interfering with that has consequences.

Wyoming23
2 days

Lol no, some anti-science luddites repeating Exxon mobile's talking points doesn't make me wrong.

I'm not oversimplifying, I'm correcting the coefficients on an equation.

Fire mitigation is such a trivially small part of this, that lay people shouldn't even be thinking about it.

Saying wild fires are natural is like saying lung cancer is natural when someone points out the risks of smoking. It doesn't go to zero if you don't smoke, but in general terms the key takeaway people should have is "smoking causes lung cancer" not "lung cancer is natural and will happen anyway regardless of if people smoke or not"

user3939382
2 days

Making ad hominem attacks against the people who disagree with you doesn’t strengthen your argument. MIT probably isn’t comprised of “anti-science luddites” and actually by ignoring the consensus and research on this issue you’re the one positioned against science.

https://news.mit.edu/2013/forest-fire-management-1120

FollowingTheDao
2 days

Since I know many people here struggle with mood issues, just know that higher PM2.5 leads to greater mood instability.

https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.20180056...

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5...

throwaway1777
2 days

Lest you think you are safe outside of the west there were wildfires in Massachusetts this year…

rpz
2 days

What is the carbon footprint of a wildfire? Ban wildfires!

JoeAltmaier
2 days

It's not good of course, and will have health repercussions.

But I remember that sitting around a campfire or in a hut with a fire going all your life is the way people lived for the first million years. And I hope we have some resilience to smoke.

dahart
2 days

Some places in the world still use indoor fires for cooking and heating, like Mongolia, Africa and India, and they have a lung health crisis there, with astronomical rates of athsma, pneumonia, and lung cancer.

We do have some resilience to mild amounts of occasional smoke, which keeps us from dying immediately, but we know long term exposure does damage, and the levels we’re seeing in the mega-fires has been far beyond what we’re evolved to breathe. Even the typical pollution in urban areas is measurably bad for health.

jacobolus
2 days

From first-hand experience (my parents are anthropologists):

Spending nights in a small earth-floor house with a wood fire in the middle is warm and convenient for cooking but the smoke is absolutely miserable, even after you sort of get used to it. It stings your eyes and your throat, chokes you, and long-term exposure causes all sorts of nasty health consequences (lung cancer, ...).

It’s much worse than the second-hand smoke from the smokiest cigarette-smoke-filled room you have ever experienced.

(When people argue that the pre-industrial past was better because there was no air pollution, it’s hard not to laugh.)

It’s a kind of romantic rustic experience occasionally in your life just to get an idea what rural people’s lives have been like throughout history and for a change from a sanitized suburban lifestyle, but it’s very unhealthy for people who have to live that way all the time. It’s little surprise that when people obtain the resources and infrastructure to switch to some other method of heating/cooking, they leap at the chance.

dymk
2 days

Most of us died before the age of 30 during that period of time

VoodooJuJu
2 days

I have an obligation to deboonk this meme wherever I see it. I apologize for my self-righteous zealotry, but I have no choice.

When we hear about average life expectancies of the days of yore, infant mortality is almost always factored into this calculation. The truth is, if a human made it past infancy, their life expectancy approached 65+.

So, when speaking of cavemen or Ancient Egyptians or whatever, when we hear "average life expectancy of ~30", or "most of us died before 30", it's technically and semantically correct when including all those babes that died in their first year or two of life, but it's misleading and thus not very useful.

I don't know if it's historians and anthropologists trying to be cute or pedantic or what, but I wish this meme would just die, because it paints a deceptive portrait of the past.

dahart
2 days

Nice to meet someone on the same train, I sometimes get on my high horse too. My brother is an anthropologist, and he’s the one that corrected my high-school mis-impression, and educated me that longevity for humans who live to be at least 20 has been around 80 years for all of known history. There are writings from thousands of years ago talking about 80 year olds. I honestly don’t think it’s the anthropologists, but I’m not sure where it comes from. Some kind of cultural misunderstanding of averages, and maybe for some people just a touch of belief than anything before fifty years ago was the dark ages and cave-people.

So, my favorite distinction is between “life expectancy” (which is a misleading average that includes early mortality) and “longevity”, which is what people often really mean, the typical length of life of someone who doesn’t die early of some kind of accident or disease while young. Longevity is the word to use for living to a ripe old age and to factor out infant mortality.

If you want to be really triggered, take a look at the graph at the bottom of this article by Ray Kurzweil: https://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns

That is so wrong and so completely and intentionally misleading (note how it leaves out known data points from the mid 1900s and from before 1850, and how the article is intentionally conflating longevity and life expectancy) that it has convinced me that Kurzweil is a charlatan and I can’t trust a single thing he’s written. It’s a bummer because I really enjoyed his keynote on double exponential growth and eventual immortality at Siggraph one year. Fun ideas but now I see he and the other eternal life pseudo scientists are selling snake oil.

Syonyk
2 days

> ...because it paints a deceptive portrait of the past.

I assume this is at least partly deliberate, because it's a major part of what has been termed the "Religion of Progress," in which the history of humanity, when you squint hard enough and ignore most of the actual history, is a "rising line from the caves to the stars." Life in the past must be worse than life today in every reasonable way you can describe it, and life in the future must be better than today, because this is what's demanded by the current myths.

The problem, of course, is that any moderately in depth study of the history of humanity demonstrates that this absolutely hasn't been the case, outside the effects of the industrial revolution from the past 250 years or so - which, as is now becoming rather obvious, has some serious downsides as well as the assorted miracles it's produced. And the focus of some of the (if not brightest, at least best paid) members of society on tricking other people into staring at a bunch of tiny flickering dots for as long as they possibly (while the world is literally burning around them) can doesn't seem like the sort of thing that's going to be considered particularly well in the future. Not that we should be praising it right now.

JM Greer has done some solid writing on the "Religion of Progress" concept, and it's just depressing how often you see life and history crammed into that mold, because it's the way we've been trained to think of the world. It's also going to be responsible (or is being responsible) for a lot of mental anguish when reality refuses to deliver what we think the future ought to be. Humans won't go to the stars. We probably won't ever have flying cars, Jetsons-style. Etc.

trgn
2 days

I hope we never have flying cars. Regulars cars are already crap technology that degraded our cities and countryside, spewing noise and exhaust everywhere. Flying cars is just doubling down on that. Crap technology to paper over the limitations of another crap technology.

jacobsimon
2 days

This is a great breakdown of stats on life expectancy over time including child mortality: https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy

Life expectancy has improved a lot in general, but less dramatically at old ages.

dymk
2 days

Go stand downwind a fire for a few years and let me know how your lungs feel.

FiberBundle
2 days

Average life expectancy for hunter gatherers was low due to infant mortality. If people didn't die as an infant their life expectancy was actually fairly high (~70 years).

gruez
2 days

While you're right in principle, the life expectancy after childhood is nowhere as high as you claim. From wikipedia

>Based on the data from modern hunter-gatherer populations, it is estimated that at 15, life expectancy was an additional 39 years (total 54), with a 60% probability of reaching 15.

lotsofpulp
2 days

Low life expectancy at birth due to humans dying during infant/child years due to disease and other causes is not indicative of effects of living in huts around campfires.

Spooky23
2 days

My ancestors lived in thatched roof cottages with open fires and livestock.

Soot and smoke was one of many hazards.

Spooky23
2 days

True, but the problems with soot and smoke in densely populated areas were a well known downside of urban life.

Rich kids with asthma spent summers at the country manor.

giraffe_lady
2 days

We don't at all we just accepted the consequences as we mostly had no way to avoid them.

JoeAltmaier
2 days

Don't be so sure!

Humans have had more genetic change in the last 50,000 years than in the 1M before that. One train of thought is, civilization put entirely new pressures on us and we adapted.

Smoke has been with us for a very long time. It's almost certain that we have some adaptation to it.

bombcar
2 days

Cooking has a similar air quality problem; cooking with gas even more so.

Proper air filtration and maintenance is something to pay attention to in new builds.

Comment was deleted :(
2devnull
2 days

I wonder if this could help explain the sudden increase in excess mortality that has come about in the past year or two?

boomchinolo78
2 days

I'm not calling it settled science but I don't think anyone is looking for explanations. People live in pretty polluted places and surprisingly good lives. Beijing and Mexico City are like this if not worse, many many days of the year.

ehnto
2 days

Pandemic not-withstanding or are you accounting for that?

jonnycomputer
2 days

help yes. but covid and drug overdose would be the other two.

coding123
2 days

Excess mortality is nearly 95% covid related.

2devnull
2 days

After controlling for that I meant. But smoke and wildfire could have exacerbated Covid in certain areas too.

mistrial9
2 days

fantastic hindsight math here from Stanford University. It was five years ago that the San Francisco Bay Area, rivaling Beijing in yet another way, had the worst PM2.5 air quality in the entire world for a few days. (insert dramatic pictures here)

It was more than ten years ago that the Jerry Brown appointed head of the California Air Resources Board Mary D. Nichols, was named a national public enemy by privately funded experts and their political area commanders.

The situation at hand in the forests of California, with >100 million dead trees standing, is a direct result of 100 years of belligerent, unyielding control of fire fighting by the USDA-USFS, with their alliances among what is now known as 30x30 program.

Their cozy allies want to make monarchical statements of Science to accompany the massive budgets being thrown at this problem. They have "AI" which clearly makes them authoritative and worthy of leadership? Combine this with an invite session at Stanford Woods Institute for maybe fifty leaders, to address "inequity" .. also apparently worth billions in budget.

Maybe there is merit to their math, but the agenda here is running huge, huge budgets .. to whom? for what?

Proven
2 days
Madmallard
2 days
belval
2 days

> On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

HN is not a single-minded hyperfocused community nor should it be. It covers most topics under the sun. If you are interested mostly in tech topics I highly recommend browsing "best" which tends to be mostly tech related: https://news.ycombinator.com/best

Madmallard
2 days

We don't need it becoming another Reddit that gets overrun by mainstream media agendas compounded by astroturfing.

linuxftw
2 days
elil17
2 days

Hmmm, perhaps this "climate change" causes things to happen?

giraffe_lady
2 days

Fun that you think this is a "trend" on hackernews rather than growing awareness of an issue that already does and certainly will effect nearly every facet of life for every living person.

ThrowawayTestr
2 days

Everyone knows climate change is a hoax perpetrated by Big Science. Get this misinformation off of HN!

Tagbert
2 days

Hey, we're all getting rich off of the hoax. Don't kill that sooty goose. /s

TurkishPoptart
2 days

Is smoke inhalation really that deadly? Human beings for centuries gathered around bonfires and campfires. As far as I know, the lungs are designed to filter out (and you cough out) particulate matter.

bombcar
2 days

Yes. There's a vast difference between "we're near a campfire" (where almost all the smoke and ash goes straight up and disperses over a very large area) and "the entire world is covered in smoke and ash".

The first is like walking near a car idling, the second is like living in Mexico City or LA before anti-smog devices were added.

Your lungs do work out some of it, but they will eventually get overloaded.

cagenut
2 days

This reminds me, and is as good a place to ask as any. Does anyone know how to get custom cardboard boxes made? Are there particular tools or vendors (or even just keywords to search on upwork/fiver) where you can design custom-cut cardboard that will fold in specific ways to build a cube?