How to deal with smoke affecting air quality and health


As wildfires become more common due to climate change and drier conditions, more and more of us are vulnerable. Here is information to help you prepare and protect yourself and your family.

How does wildfire smoke affect air quality?

Wildfire smoke is a major contributor to poor air quality. Just like fossil fuels from burning coal, oil, and gas, wildfires produce hazardous gases and different sizes of particulate matter (also known as PM10, PM2.5, PM0.1) that are harmful to breathe. Wildfire smoke contains other toxins from burning buildings and chemical storage.

The smoke can be carried by weather and jet streams to distant regions.

How does wildfire smoke affect our health?

The tiny particles in wildfire smoke are very dangerous for our health. When inhaled, these particles can enter the lungs and sometimes the bloodstream.

Health effects of wildfire smoke include eye irritation, coughing, wheezing and breathing problems. The smoke may increase the risk of respiratory infections such as Covid-19. Other serious health problems include Heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Who should be especially careful?

Those most vulnerable to wildfire smoke include children, the elderly, outdoor workers, and anyone who is pregnant or has heart or lung disease.

If you have a chronic health problem, talk to your doctor about how the smoke might be affecting you. Know what symptoms require medical attention or medication adjustments. This is especially important if you have lung problems or heart problems.

What can you do to prepare for fire emergencies?

If you live in an area prone to wildfires or where hot, dry conditions are more likely to occur:

  • Create Release plan For your family before wildfires happen.
  • Make sure you have several days worth of medicine, water, and no-cooking supplies on hand. This helps if you need to leave suddenly due to wildfire or other reason Natural disaster.
  • Check this regularly Fire and smoke mapIt shows current wildfire conditions and links to state advisories.
  • If you are in an active fire area, follow alerts from local authorities.

What steps can you take to reduce health risks on poor air quality days?

These six tips will help you stay healthy during wildfire smoke advisories and poor air quality:

  • Know the air Shares a real-time air quality risk category for your area with activity guidance. When advised, stay indoors, close doors, windows and any outside vents.
  • Consider buying an air purifier. This is important if you live in a building that is in poor condition, even when there is no regional wildfire. See my previous post about tips Pollution and air filters. EPA recommends. Avoid air purifiers that produce ozoneThis is pollution.
  • Understand your HVAC system if you have one. The quality and cleanliness of your filters count, so be selective High-efficiency filters If possible, and as necessary, replace these. It’s also important to know if your system has external vents.
  • Avoid creating indoor pollution. This means no smoking, no vacuum, and no burning products like candles or incense. Avoid frying food or using gas stoves, especially if your stove is not properly vented.
  • Make a “clean room”. Choose a room with fewer doors and windows. Run an air purifier suitable for this room, especially if you are not using central AC for cooling.
  • Minimize time outdoors and wear a mask. Again, it helps to make sure you have several days worth of medicine and foods that don’t require cooking. If you must go outdoors, reduce the time and level of activity. A Well fitted N95 Or a KN95 mask or P100 respirator will help you avoid breathing in small particles floating in the smoky air (note: automatic PDF download).

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