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Wildfires and their resulting smoke harm agricultural workers and other outdoor workers disproportionately. In California, we have seen countless instances of farmworkers in the fields surrounded by smoke as they work, but this crisis is expanding across the United States. According to the EPA, "the extent of area burned by wildfires each year appears to have increased since the 1980s. According to National Interagency Fire Center data, of the 10 years with the largest acreage burned, all have occurred since 2004, including the peak year in 2015." Climate change, its resulting heat, and dry weather have increased the frequency and the range of wildfires. In 2023, we saw smoke blanket the east coast in levels unprecedented for the region. The dangers of smoke and wildfires are known. Smoke can cause serious damage to people's lungs and exacerbate pre-existing health conditions. Increasing pollution, such as wildfire smoke, has also been connected to higher rates of asthma among children

Low-income people of color generally have increased susceptibility to respiratory distress, even without wildfires, but the smoke workers face only stands to worsen potential respiratory distress. Environmental exposures faced by workers such as dust, smoke, particulates, and pesticides result in increased susceptibility, but other factors, such as one’s persistent state of stress can as well. Facing issues like poverty, and the resulting poor diet associated with poverty, as well as systemic racism can lead to greater stress and a weakened immune system. 

MCN Wildfire Resources and Webinars

MCN's Clear the Air! Protect Your Health from Bad Air Comic Book. Available in Spanish, English translation in progress!



Climate Resilient Health Clinics | Americares

Heat and Air Quality Index | CDC


Wildfire Media

Wildfires and COVID-19: When Disasters Overlap, Agricultural Workers Struggle | Migrant Clinicians Network

In the Field: Navigating Wildfires, Heat, and COVID, Mary Jo Ybarra-Vega Turns to Connection and Community | Migrant Clinicians Network

Why Respiratory Risks like Smoke Hit Low-Income Workers the Hardest | Migrant Clinicians Network