The Unique Hazards of Urban Wildfires

California is facing some of the most worst wildfires in that state’s history.  The environmental consequences can be devastating.  In addition to property loss, wildfires generate smoke and ash that can compromise the safety of air, water and soil.  This in turn can affect our food crops.

A recent program on the PBS News Hour discussed the unique dangers posed by urban wildfires.  While forest fires consume natural trees and flora, urban fires consume man-made structures and products.  Many of these contain synthetic materials and chemicals.

“Any consumer product – cars, paint, cleaners, construction materials, you name it – it’s all going up in flames,” the program says.  “All of those emissions are going to be very different – both chemically and most likely toxicologically – compared to what we normally study as very isolated wildfires.”

You can access an audio recording and transcript of the program here.

Last year, wildfires in Northern California burned more than 245,000 acres (99,000 hectares) and 8,400 structures.  A team of researchers from the University of California at Davis is studying the long-term effects from those fires.

The team includes Professor Thomas Young, an Agilent collaborator.  UC Davis will employ a method developed by Dr. Young and Agilent scientists for the comprehensive characterization of chemicals in dust.

Dr. Young has also worked with Agilent scientists to develop comprehensive workflows for the analysis of micropollutants and pesticides.  These methods use Agilent LC/Q-TOF and GC/Q-TOF instruments.

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