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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A new study is shedding light on the harmful effects of all the smoke residents of Sacramento have been breathing in as the state’s forests go up in flames.

The monthslong report from NPR’s California Newsroom and Stanford University’s Environmental Change and Human Outcomes Lab found Sacramento led the nation’s major cities in smoke days over the last four years.

Between 2016 and 2020, Sacramento saw more than 50 smoke days. Compare that with the four years between 2009 to 2013 when Sacramento saw less than half that at 20 smoke days.

Stanford Earth System Science associate professor Marshall Burke said climate change and a lack of forest mitigation have played a major role in the increase of major wildfires and smoke days but added, things can change with humanity’s help. 

“If we don’t change our behavior, this problem could get a lot worse as the climate continues to warm. That said, there are specific things we can do that change the problem and improve things right away,” Burke explained. “We can actually get into these forests. We can put what’s called good fire on the ground, low-intensity fire that helps us clear out a lot of this accumulated fuel. If we do that, that will help us avoid these really dramatic and extreme wildfires that we’ve seen in recent years.”

These smoke days are hazardous for our physical health. But as Director of UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Irva Hertz-Picciotto told FOX40, these increased smoke days also have an impact on mental health.

“Harrowing experiences and the PTSD that comes after that, which was really evident after the 2017-2018 fires,” Hertz-Picciotto said.

The report also found the increased smoky days cost the taxpayers $34 million after the federal government paid for an increase in the asthma medication Albuterol due to higher demand.