Where there's fire, there's smoke — and the hazards that accompany it. News of wildfires affecting parts of Northern California highlight the importance of protecting indoor air — and the people who breathe it — from the harmful effects of smoke. Oregon, Idaho and Montana have also been affected by wildfires this year, and environmental factors mean urban and other populated areas may increasingly have to deal with this problem.
Even if your home wasn't directly threatened by one of these wildfires or another type of blaze, you may have been affected by the air pollution caused by fires. Or you may be wondering how to protect yourself if this kind of disaster affects the area in which you live down the line.
Avoiding smoke hazards
Keep indoor air as clear as possible in order to protect yourself from wildfire smoke, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says:
"Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. This smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases."
People who have heart or lung diseases, asthma sufferers, the elderly and children are most likely to be affected by smoke, according to the organization. Here are some ways you can protect yourself:
- Follow local air quality reports and visibility guides
- Keep indoor air clear
- Preserve the quality of indoor air by avoiding smoking, burning things or even vacuuming
- Evacuate according to the advice of local and federal agencies
You can take steps to ensure your indoor air stays clear of fire smoke.
Purifying the air
Dust masks and bandanas won't help protect your health against the hazards of wildfire smoke. You need bonafide methods of keeping the air clear.
If your home is threatened by wildfire smoke or a similar environmental hazard, you might consider purchasing an air purifier. Many people buy air purifiers to calm the effects of asthma or allergies, however, they benefit anyone who relies on air to breathe — so, yeah, everyone!
Many air purifiers operate with a HEPA filter, which helps eliminate airborne particles. In addition to activating your air purifier, tightly close all windows and doors and set your AC to the recirculate setting.
The impact of smoke inhalation
In the short-term, smoke inhalation may cause coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, a scratchy throat or other effects. Long-term effects may be more serious.
According to Wired:
"Over the years, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to measure the full health effects of wildfire smoke. The general consensus, based on hospital records, is that more smoke means more trips to the doctor for things like asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, COPD, and heart failure."
Protect yourself, your family and other residents of your household by taking precautions to ensure clean indoor air.