This past Wednesday, The Daily Californian reported on the increased air pollution in the Bay Area due to the North Bay wildfires and the various impacts of the fires on our campus. As an undergraduate public health student with asthma, I was not surprised to hear stories of my peers experiencing health exacerbations due to the poor air quality. I was also not surprised to learn that the Tang Center has seen an increase of patients with symptoms related to asthma, specifically due to the smoke inhalation.
What does surprise me, however, is that campus officials have yet to comment on the extreme health exacerbations for which students are at risk by simply walking to class. In the article, John Balmes, a professor of environmental health sciences, warned that everyone should stay inside, given the potential negative health effects of even minimal exertion. Other Bay Area schools have in fact closed because of these concerns. In Chancellor Carol Christ’s kind email to the campus addressing the wine country fires, however, she neglected to even mention the growing health concerns of all members of our community.
By failing to act in this dire situation, UC Berkeley is harming both its students and even more so staff, who are unable to protect themselves at home in this dangerous climate. The campus should consider the warnings from the Tang Center and heed the advice from Professor Balmes and urge our campus community to stay home in these unsafe environmental conditions.
Lauren Vetter is a UC Berkeley student.