Wildfire Smoke Exposure + COVID = Double Whammy For the Immune System

August 18, 2021

A study published Friday in Science magazine explored a notable association between wildfire smoke exposure and the sizable number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Oregon, Washington, and California in 2020. There are numerous compounds that makeup wildfire smoke, but one of the most prevalent and dangerous is called PM2.5 (particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less). Due to its small size, PM2.5 can penetrate deep into human lungs, unlike larger pieces of particulate matter. Identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a health threat, PM2.5 has been found to compromise the immune system, particularly by clogging up the upper respiratory system and by prompting an immune attack from the body following lung penetration. Researchers proposed that having to respond to this PM2.5 attack distracts and overwhelms the immune system, leaving it more vulnerable to a COVID-19 infection.