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High Park Fire Caused Air Pollution In Fort Collins Worse Than In Beijing

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The High Park Fire on June 14 (credit: CBS)

The High Park Fire on June 14 (credit: CBS)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Last summer’s High Park Fire in Larimer County not only destroyed homes and property, it also caused some bad damage on air quality.

Researchers at Colorado State University say the pollution from the smoke was worse than some of the most polluted cities in the world.

The High Park Fire burned hundreds and acres and sent plumes of smoke into the air for weeks. While the fire burned, researchers at CSU were busy studying the effects of the fire on air pollution.

“We tested during the High Park Fire because we had such high, smoky impacted days in the city,” said CSU Associate Professor John Volckens, PhD.

Volckens and other researchers released their findings this month.

“The air pollution in Fort Collins rivaled some of the worst days we’ve seen in some of the most polluted cities we’ve seen in the country or across the planet,” he said.

To put that into perspective, Volckens said the air was worse than Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The researchers got their findings using technology developed at CSU that has not previously been used.

“This is a bit of a breakthrough in our ability to measure air pollution,” Volckens said.

Unlike current ways of measuring air pollution, the new technology is simple, costs just a few cents, and delivers results in minutes. A small plastic disk is worn on a person and is connected to a small breathing device. It simulates what a human would breathe in a day. Water is then added to the disk. It pulls out the pollutants into a paper.

“The more color change you see, the more air pollution you were exposed to,” Volckens said.

Researchers say they hope to make the air pollution tests more widely used so the general public can test air pollutants in their homes or businesses.

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