Grand Award

Second Place

Health Hazard: Particulate Matter Present in Wildfire Smoke

Environmental Studies
Charlie Groves

Laryssa De Matos

Climate change creates dry conditions, increasing the danger of wildfires. The particulate matter (PM) present in smoke from these fires poses a health crisis for persons with pulmonary insufficiency, children, and others who breathe it. PM2.5 micrometers and PM10 micrometers, can enter the bloodstream after breathing smoke filled air. The World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines state that PM2.5 and PM10 should not exceed 5 mcg/m3 and 25 mcg/m3 respectively in 24 hours. The purpose of this research is to investigate the size and concentration of PM created by six different common flora types burned in wildfires, assess the heat generated by each flora related to the PM produced, and test wind as a variable that could alter the deposition of the PM elsewhere. The hypothesis is that all flora tested will produce PM in an amount that may pose a health risk to humans and that both the heat produced and the presence of wind affect the concentration of PM. Results demonstrate that only one category of flora correlates between heat and PM produced and even slight wind affects the concentration of PM recorded. When testing for air quality, burning even small samples produced PM above the recommended WHO guidelines for safety. In conclusion, this research shows that careful consideration should be taken when selecting the type of flora to be planted in populated areas in order to decrease the fire potential and the resultant particulate matter produced. Additionally, masking is critical when smoke air pollution is present.

Project presentation

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Research paper

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2 thoughts on “Health Hazard: Particulate Matter Present in Wildfire Smoke

  1. I’m curious why you chose the plants you did and not more native plants. Both alfalfa and Timothy grass are very high water use forage for cattle, and cottonwood are found only in riparian areas.

  2. An excellent project. I appreciated that you recognized the limits of what you could do on an experimental basis and that you see further research in the future. Congratulations on a job well done

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