Amid Fires, Calif. Scientists Probe How Smoke Affects Pregnancy and Children

"Climate change portends ever more frequent fires, and the smoky haze is “not easy to run from anymore,” notes one of the study’s leaders."

"When wildfires spread through parts of Northern California wine country in 2017, they melted electronics, combusted cars and exploded propane tanks. The fires sent acrid smoke billowing into the sky, its footprint wafting over the state and extending for 500 miles into the Pacific Ocean.

At the time, Rebecca Schmidt, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis, was working on a study that followed families of children with autism who were expecting another child. When the fires spread, pregnant participants in the research started asking whether they should be worried about the air.

Schmidt and her collaborators didn’t know what to say. There wasn’t much existing research on how wildfire smoke affects pregnancy. “I would have been wondering the same thing,” she said. “We really couldn’t tell them how concerned they needed to be.”

She decided to try to find the answers herself. Over the last several years, Schmidt and a team of fellow scientists have collected biological samples like hair, saliva and blood from pregnant people in California to better understand the health effects of smoke exposure on babies and those who carry them."

Emma Foehringer Merchant reports for Inside Climate News April 23, 2023.

Source: Inside Climate News, 04/26/2023