The wildfire smoke that blanketed the northeastern US last week has lifted, bringing air pollution levels down, and offering reprieve, particularly for those acutely affected by the smoke, including children, the elderly, sick, and otherwise vulnerable communities already facing a heavy pollution burden. “These are the same health issues we see from burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas, but many overlook or downplay this threat because you cannot see or smell this pollution as easily as you can with wildfire smoke,” Annie Carforo of WE ACT for Environmental Justice told CNN.
While mainstream media was replete with coverage of the health impacts, rightwing news consumers were hearing something dramatically different- disinformation. Because tobacco smoke, wildfire smoke, and smoke from combusting fossil fuels all release a similar kind of particulate matter pollution, or soot, known formally PM2.5, former tobacco lawyer, turned coal and fossil-funded climate denier Steve Milloy was invited on to Fox News to deny the health impacts of breathing in smoke. Scientific research shows PM2.5 from fossil fuels is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide, but as NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy explained, wildfire smoke is “estimated to be 10 times as toxic as air pollution from burning fossil fuels.” (Smoke and Health: (CNN, NPR, Axios, The Guardian, New York Times $; Disinformation: Media Matters, CNN, New Republic, HuffPost, Rolling Stone, TruthOut, Newsweek, Mediaite, Independent, Common Dreams, Messenger, RawStory)