Unrecognized Hazards of Smoke
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Did you wake up to an eerie orange sky?
2020 has already been rough on each one of us, and it does not seems like the year is getting any better. Currently, there are around 100 wildfires actively burning in the west coast of the United States. This orange sky is caused by multitude of wildfires burning across the west coast. Pictures of burning skies has been trending across social media with many wondering if they've been suddenly transported to MARS or awoke in some apocalyptic wasteland.
A lot of people may not recognize the hazards associated with wildfire smoke. Wildfire smoke contains PM 2.5 particles, particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller. In comparison, a strand of hair is 100 micrometers wide. PM 2.5 particles can travel deep into the lungs and cause persistent coughing, phlegm, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. They can also cause serious problem like reduced lung function and worsening of asthma. The EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI) is a scale, from 0 to 500, measures PM2.5 air pollution!
AQI of 100 or less : Satisfactory
AQI over 100: Unhealthy for sensitive populations
AQI over 150: Unhealthy for all populations
Sensitive populations are:
People who have heart or lung disease
Older adults are likely to affected by smoke
Children: Their airways are still developing and they breath in more air per pound of body weight than adult.
You do not want to breathe in all those particles into your lungs. Smoke can hurt your eyes and harm your respiratory system. These are the symptoms that you will experience if you are exposed to the smoke:
Trouble breathing , wheezing, and shortness breath
Runny nose and irritated sinuses
We still see many people doing outdoor activities or walking their dogs without protection. Smoke can hurt pets, too!
These are our recommendation from protection of wildfire smoke.
Pay attention to air quality reports; you can visit fire.airnow.gov for real time interactive map of wildfires and AQI.
Try to stay indoors. Try to keep your pets indoor as well.
Keep your windows and doors closed, and secure seals on windows and doors.
Use air purifiers; invest in a HEPA air filter. You can also run your AC unit or fan function.
Keep your indoor air as clean as possible; do not add indoor pollution.
If you are in one of the sensitive populations listed above, please follow your doctor's advice. Call your doctor if you are suffering from symptoms related to the wildfire smoke.
If you must go out, please wear a NIOSH-approved N95 mask. You must wear the respirator properly to protect yourself! Cloth masks and dust masks can only protect you from bigger particles, but not from the PM2.5 particles in the smoke.
Hang in there! We can face these challenges together and 2020 will be better! Don't give up!