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

Two-photo collage. Left-hand photo shows Joanne Medina in Army uniform with her husband and their three children standing in front of a cake. Right-hand photo shows Medina seated in a University of Washington t-shirt.

Serving her country through public health

DEOHS MPH student Joanne Medina has spent nearly 10 years promoting environmental health in the US Army

Man with a University of Washington baseball cap on looking out the window of a train.

Tracking air pollution from space

DEOHS postdoctoral fellow Jianzhao Bi honored by International Society of Exposure Science for remote sensing of air pollution

picture of wildfire smoke with the words 'special feature' over it

“The risk is real”

Breathing wildfire smoke isn’t just unhealthy—it can be deadly. DEOHS works with partners across the Northwest to get the word out to those most at risk.

Downtown Seattle in a haze of wildfire smoke with trees in the foreground.

HEPA air cleaners could prevent deaths from wildfire smoke

A wildfire smoke event in 2020 may have led to nearly 100 deaths in Washington, but there are steps we can take now to avert future deaths, new DEOHS research suggests

Five people (four in N95 masks) pose with cardboard picture frame cutouts saying "#ColorOutSmoke" and "I [heart] MY AIRSHED."

Population health grants boost wildfire and climate research

Three DEOHS teams awarded new pilot grants from UW Population Health Initiative

DEOHS Professor Elena Austin stands in a parking lot outside a school holding an air monitoring instrument.

Monitoring air quality in schools

Does ultrafine air pollution infiltrate schools near Sea-Tac Airport? DEOHS researchers partner with cities in South King County to find out.


In the news

As rules are crafted, farmworkers report limited access to breaks, shade on hot days
October 21, 2021 | Salem Statesman-Journal | Featured: Edward Kasner View

Hospitals confront climate change as patients sick from floods and fires crowd ERs
October 1, 2021 | Kaiser Health News | Featured: Jeremy J Hess View

Wildfire smoke claims more than 33,000 lives each year, new study finds
September 9, 2021 | Grist | Featured: Joel D. Kaufman View

Wildfire smoke exposure linked to preterm births, study says
August 27, 2021 | Seattle Times | Featured: Joel D. Kaufman View

Washington State adds emergency rules to protect workers from heat and wildfire smoke
August 13, 2021 | National Resources Defense Council | Featured: June T. Spector View