EPA Awards Research Funding to UC Berkeley to Help Reduce Community Exposure to Wildfire Smoke

SAN FRANCISCO (December 20, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $549,940 in research funding to the University of California-Berkeley to create an action plan for effective communication of wildland fire smoke exposure threats to at-risk San Francisco Bay Area communities.

“Smoke from wildfires is a serious health risk to millions of Americans,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Laboratory Services and Applied Sciences Division Director Duane James. “The results of this research will help us more effectively communicate these threats to some of the most at-risk communities and empower them to better protect their own health during wildfire smoke events.”

“As wildfires become more frequent and severe, we are working to effectively communicate the risks of smoke exposure to impacted communities,” said Wayne Cascio, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The research we are funding will help develop strategies to prevent and reduce the health impacts of smoke from wildfires.”

Wildland fire (wildfire and prescribed fires) smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles. Outside or indoors, exposure to these microscopic particles can cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Additionally, fine particles can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases, and they are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions. Smoke also contains air toxics that can cause cancer or other serious health effects.

Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley will use EPA’s funding to engage members of underserved and marginalized groups in California’s San Francisco Bay Area to identify the most effective data sources and dissemination strategies for communicating wildfire smoke exposure risks. The goal of the research is to improve public health through developing a community-aligned action plan for wildfire smoke exposure prevention to serve the residents of the community.

“The project was designed with the public in mind. I’d like to better understand how scientists can improve our participation in smoke exposure risk communication by prioritizing concerns of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable population,” said Dr. Cesunica Ivey, Assistant Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and Principal Investigator of the Air Quality Modeling and Exposure Lab. “I look forward to learning more from communities about their concerns around messaging and interventions surrounding smoke exposure mitigation.”

Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley

This grant is one of the eleven research projects receiving EPA STAR funding to address interventions and communication strategies to reduce exposure and the associated health risks from wildland fire smoke.

For more information about these grants, visit: https://www.epa.gov/research-grants/interventions-and-communication-strategies-reduce-health-risks-wildland-fire-0

Background on EPA’s STAR Program

The goal of EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program is to stimulate and support scientific and engineering research that advances EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. It is a competitive, peer reviewed, extramural research program that provides access to the nation’s best scientists and engineers in academic and other nonprofit research institutions. STAR funds research on the environmental and public health effects of air quality, climate change, environmental justice, water quality and quantity, hazardous waste, toxic substances, and pesticides.

For more information about EPA research grants, visit: https://www.epa.gov/research-grants

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