As Fires Rage Outside, Indoor Air Risks Could Also Be Lurking

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SEATTLE — Wildfire smoke is a hazard to many Washingtonians right now, but health experts say some might not get the relief they need inside their homes.

Dr. Mark Vossler, president of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, said gas stoves can also present hazards to our health.

“We think that we can escape bad outdoor air quality by going indoors, but of course if we’re burning fossil fuels in the home, we’re also creating bad indoor air quality,” Vossler contended.

The potential combination of bad air quality indoors and outdoors comes as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

recently released study found last year’s wildfires caused more cases and deaths from the virus. Tiny particles, such as harmful heavy metals in the smoke, make people more susceptible to respiratory disease.

Vossler pointed out you can also find harmful particulate matter that lodges itself deep in the lungs after cooking a meal on a gas stove. He noted indoor air from these gases would be deemed unhealthy if measured outside.

“But we’re not measuring indoor air quality,” Vossler observed. “You’re not getting reports on your weather reports like you do when there’s smoky skies, but it is dangerous.”

Vossler added there is an established link between the concentration of particulates in the air and mortality. Research shows children who live in a home with a gas stove have a 40% increased risk of asthma symptoms.

Vossler stressed he is encouraged by the Evergreen State’s goals for reducing carbon emissions and moving toward renewables, including local efforts in the state to reduce the use of natural gas in buildings, but he believes it’s a different story at the federal level.

“Washington, the state, is moving in the right direction,” Vossler asserted. “Where we’re failing dramatically is Washington, D.C., where the federal government hasn’t done anything significant at all to mitigate climate change.”

Vossler suggested Congress could take a step in the right direction by passing the infrastructure and budget bills, which contain climate action measures.

Featured photo: Gas stoves increase the risk of respiratory disease for children, research shows. (dglimages/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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