Public Health Risks from Wildfire Smoke and Ash Exposure – YubaNet

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SACRAMENTO – California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Thomas Aragon is urging Californians in areas affected by wildfire smoke to take steps to protect their health, including staying indoors and, if necessary, outdoor activities to reduce inhalation exposure. Smoke and ash. Californians can check their local Air Quality Index (AQI) at EPA AirNow.

“Fires and the resulting smoke and ash can be particularly unhealthy for vulnerable people, including children, the elderly, those with respiratory problems or asthma, and pregnant women,” Dr. Aragon said. “Californians should be aware of the dangers of inhaling wildfire smoke and ash. People at risk, especially children, the elderly and pregnant women, should limit their outdoor activities and stay indoors if possible.”

Wildfire smoke contains small particles that irritate the respiratory system, and when inhaled deeply, they can damage the lungs and heart. Exposure to high levels of fine particles can cause persistent coughing, runny nose, phlegm, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Smoke from wildfires can cause eye irritation, lung congestion and bronchitis. Breathing smoke can worsen asthma symptoms. People with chronic lung or heart problems should limit their exposure by staying indoors.

Those who must work outdoors for long periods of time, in areas with heavy smoke or ash, should wear a properly fitted N95 or P100 respirator. People with lung or heart problems should ask their doctor before using a respirator as it can make breathing difficult.

Wildfires can lead to sudden evacuations and it is important to follow the instructions of local authorities when ordering evacuations. Current evacuation information can often be found by following local news outlets as well as the official social media channels of emergency responders such as sheriff’s offices, police departments and fire departments.

“In the event of a fire, you must prioritize your safety and the safety of your loved ones. If you are instructed to leave your home or area, please do so immediately,” said Dr. Aragon.

Tips to reduce smoke and ash inhalation

To avoid potential health problems, CDPH recommends taking the following steps.

  • Stay at home. The most common advice during the smoke season is to stay indoors where people can better control their surroundings. Whether indoors or in public spaces, clean air and climate-controlled indoor environments provide relief from smoke and heat.
  • Adjust the AC to avoid drawing in smoky air. If you have a central air conditioning system in your home, to avoid drawing in smoky outside air, recirculate it or close the outside air vents. Be sure to change your air filter regularly.
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution. Smoking, using gas, propane, and wood-burning stoves and furnaces, spraying aerosol products, grilling or broiling meat, burning candles and incense, and vacuuming can all increase indoor particulate matter and should be avoided when wildfire smoke is visible.
  • Reduce physical activity to reduce exposure to smoky air. During exercise, people can increase their air intake up to 20 times more than when they are resting.
  • Be ready to leave. Monitor wildfire activity in your area and prepare to evacuate if advised.
  • Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible. Avoid dry mopping, use water and a damp cloth or detergent to clean items and surfaces. Do not use leaves or take other steps that will allow ash to enter the air.
  • Use PPE. Wear a well-fitting respirator, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants when cleaning ash. Avoid skin contact. If you get ash on your skin, wash it off immediately. Some wet ash can cause chemical burns.
  • A vacuum does not filter out small particles. Shop vacuums and other common vacuum cleaners do not filter small particles. Such particles can be inhaled into the exhaust air. The use of shop vacuums and other non-HEPA filter vacuums is not recommended. A HEPA filter vacuum can be used if available.
  • Supervise children and adults. Do not allow children to play with ash or be in an area where ash-covered materials are disturbing. Wash ashes before children play with them. Clean the ashes from pets. Supervise children and adults as they may be more susceptible to health and emotional effects from fire recovery.
  • Prepare emergency supplies. Make sure you have an emergency kit complete with medications, prescriptions, and medical supplies.
  • Find nearby shelters, including those that take pets.
  • Medical care. Get medical help right away if you experience chest pain, chest tightness or shortness of breath.

For more information on how to protect yourself during extreme heat, visit this CDFA high temperature stationor the California Office of Emergency Services About resources and information Wildfire recovery. Local public health officials can review the Guidance for Local Governments in the CDPH publication, “Wildfire Smoke Estimates for California Public Health Officials (August 2022)He said.

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