The idea for these charts spawned from this story from SFGate describing a recent study from Denmark linking wood smoke (particulate matter) to harming your health. As you can see, while the predominant number of days (275 total) counted in the 2008 AQI had good air quality, at the same time the largest pollutant was particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers. Wood smoke would be lumped into this category, and the study even found that the carcinogenic chemicals contained in the smoke (not unlike car exhaust and tobacco smoke) can damage DNA and activate genes. I found this story relevant as especially burning a fire on a winter trip to Tahoe or grilling food during the summer, many people in the Bay Area are exposed to wood smoke. The Bay Area (and California in general) is also very sensitive towards keeping cleaner air standards.
As a follow up story, I would want to dig deeper into why for thousands of years we’ve been able to live with wood smoke and therefore particulate matter just fine, yet with this recent study it seems more harmful than previously imagined. The story would investigate more into the “why?” of particulate matter, which is seemingly rather harmful, has yet to cause any major detriment to human health.