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Greek Wildfires Aftermath: Satellite Imagery Shows Toxic Air

Even as more wildfires continue to break out after hundreds erupted earlier in August across Greece, the air above the country and into the atmosphere is filled with toxic micro particles that are lingering and a health hazard.

Mark Parrington, a senior researcher at the European Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), who has been studying satellite images from Greece, told Kathimerini about the scope and scale of the problem.

“Beyond the immediate disasters, the effects on the atmosphere and carbon emissions are enormous,” said the British researcher who specializes in the impact of fires on atmospheric composition.

He urged residents of fire-struck areas to limit their exposure to outdoor spaces due to the high concentration of harmful particles as those in Athens were told even days after fires broke out north of the city, covering it in white soot and making the air reek of smoke during a heat wave.

“In recent days in Greece, the carbon emissions have increased dramatically. The increase is noticeable both in comparison with previous data for this summer, as well in relation to previous periods of high risk for fires,” he told the paper.

“There is a clear and direct effect of fires on the atmosphere, due to the smoke and the airborne particles it contains, many of which are toxic and extremely harmful to human health,” he said.

The most affected areas include northern Attica around the capital and the country's second-biggest island, Evia, that was nearly cut in half by roaring blazes that hopskotched into pristine pine forests, consuming them.

Clouds of smoke remained for days in those areas, reaching so high into the sky it almost resembled a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud. Those brought, he said, a “worryingly high concentration of PM 2.5 particles, which are particularly harmful to human health, in addition to excessive smog in the atmosphere.”

It's unclear how long that will continue or whether more fires will add to the danger, especially for those with respiratory ailments or other underlying conditions affecting breathing, advised to stay indoors at times.

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