Legislation has been introduced in the California State Assembly that is aimed at protecting outdoor workers from harmful levels of wildfire smoke, after one of the worst wildfire seasons in the state’s recorded history.
This bill would require employers to provide respirators to outdoor workers to protect against smoke from wildfires or burning structures as a result of wildfires. “Wildfire smoke consists of different gases and fine particles,” the bill states, “some from burning vegetation and others from burning structures, with the structures often having been built with asbestos, lead and other toxins. This complex mixture of chemicals and substances can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems.”
Inhalation of wildfire smoke can trigger heart disease, permanently reduce lung function, and cause cancer or even premature death. Last year, more than 100 people were killed and thousands of homes were destroyed in more than 7,500 wildfires that burned nearly 1.7 million acres. Because of the sudden-changing nature of wildfires, the bill would exempt employers from medical evaluations and fit testing before respirator use by workers.
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