Author: Rachel Ramirez

Wildfires can unlock cancer-causing chemicals from the soil, new research finds

Source(s): Cable News Network


“In the complex mixture of gasses and particles that wildfires spew out as smoke and leave behind as dust, heavy metals such as chromium have largely been overlooked,” Scott Fendorf, co-author of the study and professor at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, said in a press release.

Chromium is common in soils across the western United States, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Indonesia and South Africa.

Certain natural chemical processes can trigger a transformation of the metal from a benign form, called chromium 3, into a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6. The toxin — which became infamous through the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” — can cause cancer, organ damage and other health issues.


Fendorf said much of the health risk typically wanes after the first big rainfall washes the metals away. But it could take weeks or months for rain to arrive after a fire, especially as climate change increases the likelihood and frequency of drought.


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