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What Dangerous Particles Did LA Residents Breathe During The Fires?

12/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Los Angeles times reports on some Californians' worst fears -- that the wildfires put something bad in the air:

It was full of tiny particles -- 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair -- that can penetrate into the lower lung and migrate into the bloodstream. Their complex chemical composition makes them slightly more toxic than pollutants in a freeway corridor -- and they are spread over a much wider area.

The smoke particulates are adept at producing free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease. Roughly half the matter sampled was organic carbon, which includes known carcinogens. Levels of metals such as copper emitted from burning buildings were also higher.

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