Pollution levels in the immediate area of the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. are among the dirtiest in the world, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Local officials report that respiratory hospitalizations have surged in the communities around Paradise, and elevated pollution levels have prompted school closures in San Francisco and air quality warnings in Los Angeles, both hundreds of miles to the south.

On top of the immediate dangers of smoke inhalation, medical researchers fear that the prolonged inhalation of wood fire particles can wreak lifelong havoc on the human immune system.

The body creates zealous responses to what it sees as an alien presence, and those effects can last for years by priming the body to overreact when it encounters subsequent lung irritation, said Dr. Kari Nadeau, a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist at Stanford.

In short, researchers like Dr. Nadeau believe that a person’s short-term exposure to wildfire can spur a lifetime of asthma, allergy and constricted breathing.

The Camp Fire is California’s deadliest on record. Eighty deaths have been attributed to the fire, and 1,300 people remain missing and unaccounted for. As of Sunday evening, the fire is about 65% contained.

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