Devastating wildfires are currently burning throughout the West Coast and it is estimated that in this year alone, more than 3.4 million acres have already burned. These fires have been so intense, often the skies are turned orange. Not only have millions been forced to leave their homes but the dangerous smoke is endangering the lung health of those thousands of miles away.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the biggest health threat from wildfire smoke is from fine particles. These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs which can cause various health effects.
So, what do those impacted by wildfire smoke need to? Below are key messages about wildfire smoke.
Health Effects of Wildfires
- Burning Eyes
- Running Nose
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty Breathing
- Rapid Heartbeat
Who is at Greater Risk?
- Older Adults
- Children and Teens
- People with Heart or Lung Disease
- Pregnant Women
- Outdoor Workers
- Avoid being outdoors when not necessary.
- Take steps to keep air indoors “clean”
- Replace air filters with a MERV 13 or higher rating
- Consider use of an in-home purifier
- Run air conditioner on circulating mode (including vehicles)
- Do not vacuum or use candles
- Listen and watch for air quality reports and health warnings when planning your time outside.
Outdoor Mask Use
When the air quality index is above 150, use a “particulate respirator” that has been tested and approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It will have the words “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” on it.
Use masks without valves to also protect against the spread of COVID-19. DIY cloth masks will not offer protection from wildfire smoke.
For a quick reference guide with the information above, download our free resource here. For additional information on lung health and wildfire smoke, visit the American Lung Association resource page or the CDC website.