People in the Klamath Basin inhaled wildfire smoke for about 154 days last year.

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That’s according to a report from OSPIRG, the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group.

The nonprofit counted the number of days each region in the country experienced unhealthy air, whether from wildfire smoke, car exhaust or other pollutants.

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A large wildfire and smoke are seen in a forested area to the left of a roadway during the day.

The Jack Fire outside Roseburg fills the air with smoke at North Umpqua Highway in July 2021.

Oregon Dept. of Transportation / Oregon Department of Transportation

At a press conference, state Sen. Jeff Golden of Ashland noted that Southern Oregon is especially vulnerable.

“I think it’s really important that people understand that the choking, awful wildfire smoke we get is really damaging in terms of particulate pollution,” Golden said.

The Medford area experienced 54 days of smoke, which wasn’t nearly as many as the Klamath Basin or Harney County with 111 days. Still, the wildfires over Labor Day weekend pushed air quality into hazardous levels.

Wildfire particulates are so tiny, that they could get stuck in peoples’ lungs and cause long-term health effects like asthma or heart disease.

OSPIRG suggested a number of policy changes to address a changing climate that’s resulting in increasingly polluted air.

Gov. Kate Brown this year signed a wildfire bill that includes funding for “clean air” shelters and air filtration systems for low-income families.

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