The health effects of wildfire smoke

Worker approaches a blazing wildfire in a forest.

DEOHS wildfire experts are investigating how smoke affects our health and strategies to reduce its impacts


DEOHS wildfire smoke experts were featured in a recent webinar hosted by the UW School of Public Health

Wildfires are natural and inevitable in our forestlands. Climate change is making our wildfire seasons longer, hotter and more dangerous.

The UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) has a long history of leading research into the impacts of wildfires on human health.

Through our research and outreach activities, DEOHS faculty and students are building our understanding of how wildfire smoke can damage our health and the best ways to protect people and communities from harm.

Learn about our impact, research and expertise below.

Our impact

Hazy skies with a halo around the sun above mountains, evergreens and a hillside.

DEOHS targets emerging health threats with new population health awards

DEOHS researchers and partners awarded grants to tackle extreme cold, sea level rise, combined heat and smoke, and zoonotic disease

An oil drilling rig backlit by smoky skies at sunset with windmills in the background.

Wildfires increasingly threaten oil and gas drill sites

Some 3 million people could face compounded health risks in coming decades as a result, according to new study

Hannah McKinley smiles in front of a bush on the UW campus.

From the ‘COVID years’ to belonging

Hannah McKinley named 2024 DEOHS Outstanding Undergraduate Student

Wildfire smoke behind a mountainous landscape with fields in the foreground.

Indigenous communities in California are disproportionately exposed to wildfire smoke

DEOHS faculty member Joan Casey and colleagues assess long-term exposures to wildfire smoke with an environmental justice lens

Smoky skies over the buildings, bridges and river of Spokane, Washington.

Preparing Washington’s second largest city for wildfire season

DEOHS researchers partner with Gonzaga University and others to make Spokane “smoke ready” with $1.1 million EPA grant

A woman in a hard hat, safety jacket and gloves sets fire to a pile of brush with trees in the background.

Prescribed burning reduces wildfire smoke impacts

DEOHS-led research helps California forest managers assess smoke hazards from prescribed burns


In the news

Use these interactive maps to track PNW wildfires and air quality
July 6, 2024 | Seattle Times | Featured: Bonnie Ronish View

Inequitable exposure to wildfire smoke
July 1, 2024 | Science Sessions podcast | Featured: Joan Casey View

Fuel to the fire: How climate change makes wildfire season worse
June 18, 2024 | MinnPost | Featured: Alison Cullen View

California wildfire smoke impacts Indigenous communities nearly 2x more than expected
March 1, 2024 | EcoWatch | Featured: Joan Casey View

Risk of wildfire smoke in long-term care facilities is worse than you'd think
January 22, 2024 | CBS News | Featured: Savannah D'Evelyn View