As the California drought continues to drag on, it has become increasingly apparent that the condition has worsened over the last several years. Not only is the general public dealing with one of the worst droughts, but the last several dry winters will only make matters worse as more ‘fuel’ for the fires becomes available.
It has long been known that the wildfire season in the western U.S. is ‘strongly seasonal with 94% of the fires taking place between the months of May and October’ (Westerling et al 2003). With this season expected to amongst the worst in recent memory – given the environmental conditions, it is important to note that there are additional concerns that extend beyond the primary issues of personal safety and loss of personal belongings.
After a wildfire it is often imperative to differentiate between carbon black and black carbon/soot. Many laboratories attempt to differentiate between them based solely on morphological characteristics through the use of polarized light microscopy alone. Additional instrumentation is frequently needed and should always be considered as optical identification alone is proving to be insufficient. With the expertise of Jerry Drapala PhD at the helm, LA Testing in California recently began accepting samples for this important analysis.
While we don’t know all the consequences of exposure, exposures to wildfire residuals should be limited to the extent possible as it has been demonstrated that many carbon black particles have been coated with other chemicals which can make them even more hazardous.
Western United States locations with the highest average moisture availability and biomass have the most fires when conditions are much drier than normal; consistent with the hypothesis that fuel flammability is the most important factor determining interannual variability in fire risks.
For more information about Carbon Black, Black Carbon and Soot testing visit www.LATesting.com or call (800)303-0047 and ask for Jerry Drapala PhD.