Lahaina's wildfire aftermath reveals unexpected low toxicity levels

The fierce heat of the Lahaina wildfire may have played a pivotal role in diminishing the presence of toxic contaminants typically associated with such disasters.

Paula Dobbyn reports for Civil Beat.


In short:

  • Renee Takesue's research shows early signs that the intense heat of Lahaina's wildfire may have neutralized many harmful chemicals.
  • Investigations continue as Takesue samples soil and water across 38 sites to gauge environmental impacts and guide recovery.
  • State officials have declared coastal waters safe for recreation, citing minimal contamination from the fire.

Key quote:

“What happens is that the chemicals either totally volatilize and get transported through the atmosphere or they get destroyed because the temperature is so high.”

— Renee Takesue, USGS scientist

Why this matters:

While these fires have left behind charred landscapes and displaced communities, they have also catalyzed the breakdown of certain pollutants present in the environment.

Related: As western wildfires become bigger and more intense, state and federal fire agencies are using more and more aerial fire retardant, prompting concerns over fish kills, aquatic life, and water quality.

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