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Researchers Say Ash From Wildfires Dangerous to Humans and Environment

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Aired 4/19/09

Federal researchers say the ash left behind by the Southern California wildfires is bad for both people and the environment. The U.S. Geological Survey collected samples from of ash left over from the Harris Fire in San Diego County and the Grass Fire in San Bernardino County.

Lead author Geoffry Plumlee says higher than normal levels of metals and a caustic alkali material that reacts when it mixes with water.

Plumlee : The high levels of PH that we measured in the residential ash were higher than we were expecting based on what we know about wildfire ash from other places. The fact that the two residential areas that we looked at were higher than wild land areas was bit of a surprise to us.

Federal scientists say runoff from the burned areas could hurt ecosystems, aquatic habitat and surface water quality. They suggest taking precautions if people are planning to handle the ash.

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