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Wildfires burning out of control across the Western U.S. causes hazy skies throughout New York City and Washington D.C. Photo: Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New studies show the smoke from some wildfires like the 2018 Camp fire could be even more harmful than previously believed because its noxious fumes include elevated levels of chemicals such as lead, zinc and iron, Los Angeles Times reports.

Why it matters: Hazardous chemicals in the air are linked with serious health implications for blood pressure, reproductive systems and even cancer and neurological disorders, especially in children.

Driving the news: Smoke from current wildfires on the West Coast has reached the opposite coast, creating hazy skies that could linger for weeks.

State of play: Researchers studied data from air filters and toxic monitors in the aftermath of the Camp fire and found many buildings that burned were likely constructed before the lead paint ban in 1978 and the cars that burned had chemicals such as zinc.

  • Lead levels in Chico, the closest monitoring site to the Camp fire, were 50 times higher than normal for one 24-hour period during the fire.
  • “You’re not only now burning wood. You’re burning heavy metals, and you’re burning plastics and other things that wouldn’t burn just in a forest fire," Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told the LA Times.

The big picture: Researchers are also linking the potentially negative effects of wildfire smoke and COVID-19 with respiratory illnesses.

  • A study published this month found that wildfire smoke may greatly increase susceptibility to COVID-19.
  • The immediate effects of wildfire smoke is also concerning to experts, who fear the smoke will drive high populations of unvaccinated people indoors and lead to a spike in community infections, Kaiser Health News reports.

Go deeper

22 hours ago - Health

1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and U.S. Census Bureau; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The U.S. has reached a grim pandemic milestone: More than 1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, according to the latest available data.

Why it matters: The rising death toll highlights the continued effects of the Delta variant and the ongoing struggle to get Americans vaccinated.

By the numbers: The total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the United States is 665,496 as of 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to reporting by Johns Hopkins University.

  • 30.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved individuals ages 85 and older as of Wednesday, despite only making up 2% of cases and an equal portion of the population.
18 hours ago - Health

Study: Gaps in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders alarming amid COVID

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are one of the fastest-growing populations, yet data collection on the community at the federal and state levels remains "virtually nonexistent," according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

Why it matters: In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget mandated the disaggregation of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander data from the broader "Asian" category. Yet two decades later, over 30% of federal data sources fail to provide disaggregated NHPI data, a gap that's more pressing than ever due to the pandemic, researchers say.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay — Moderna suggests booster shots, citing clinical data.
  2. Health: 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising — Study: Gaps in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders alarming amid COVID.
  3. Politics: Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers — Axios-Ipsos poll: 60% of voters back Biden vaccine mandates.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.