Wildfires in west coast states have increased over the past few decades, and are expected to grow more frequent and intense with climate change. This year, we’ve already seen an unprecedented intensity of early-season wildfires, and experts are warning of more fires and smoke to come throughout the rest of the Summer and early Fall. Much like other climate impacts, wildfire smoke is a climate justice issue and is intimately linked with racial and environmental justice– systemic marginalization and decades of racist policy have caused communities of color and low-income communities to experience greater exposure to wildfire smoke and poor air quality, disproportionately high rates of asthma and other conditions that put someone at risk, and to have fewer resources with which to adapt to smoke.

Wildfire smoke contains compounds that can harm our health– most notably, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), which is linked with exacerbation of asthma, COPD, and other respiratory conditions and some cardiovascular conditions, among others. This is especially harmful for the elderly, children, and people with chronic illnesses; however, if the air quality is impacted past a certain level, it can affect everyone.

There are a few things you can do now to prepare for wildfire smoke, which are outlined in this article and in the following graphic. Other resources can be found through the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health SciencesWashington Department of Health website (information available in English, Spanish, Korean, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, and Chinese), Public Health Seattle-King County, and the Washington Smoke Blog

Some key takeaways include:

If you have any questions or would like to get more involved with climate justice work, please email climatejustice@uaw4121.org.