Smoke & Air Quality
Smoke & Populations
Recent growth in the frequency and severity of US wildfires has led to more wildfire smoke and increased public exposure to harmful air pollutants. Populations exposed to wildfire smoke experience a variety of negative health impacts, imposing economic costs on society. However, few estimates of smoke health costs exist and none for the entire Western US, in particular, which experiences some of the largest and most intense wildfires in the US. The lack of cost estimates is troublesome because smoke health impacts are an important consideration of the overall costs of wildfire. To address this gap, this study provides the first time series estimates of PM2.5 smoke costs across mortality and several morbidity measures for the Western US over 2005–2015. This time period includes smoke from several megafires and includes years of record-breaking acres burned. Smoke costs are estimated using a benefits transfer protocol developed for contexts when original health data are not available. The novelty of our protocol is that it synthesizes the literature on choices faced by researchers when conducting a smoke cost benefit transfer. On average, wildfire smoke in the Western US creates $165 million in annual morbidity and mortality health costs.