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Report Says Texans Ranked First For Unhealthy Exposure To Wildfire Smoke

The NRDC report says the area affected by wildfire smoke is 50 times greater than the area burned.

A study produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council ranks Texas first among states for the number of citizens exposed to  week or more of dangerous wildfire smoke in 2011.  

Dr. Patrick Kinney, from the Mailman School of Public Health, at Columbia University, says the smoke can affect health far beyond the fires.

"There’s a large body of health research that indicates on days with high smoke levels there is a greater risk of lung problems such as those experienced by asthmatics or people with chronic lung diseases," said Kinney.

"In addition it’s very likely that fire smoke can increase the risk of death due to heart and lung problems," he said. 

Kinney and the study, "Where There's Fire, There's Smoke," conclude the risk of wildfires has increased because of climate change and carbon pollution from power plants.

In 2011 Texas wildfires killed at least six and destroyed four million acres include much of Bastrop State Park.  

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.