Wildfires and Air Pollution: What you can do to stop smoke now
Climate change has led to earlier snow melts, hotter springs and summers, and longer wildfire seasons all along the west coast. Depending on the rate of future global warming, the number of large wildfires in western states could increase by as much as six times over the next 20 years. The Summit Fire burning about 100 miles east of Los Angeles in the Big Bear Resort is currently only 30 percent contained. It is one of more than 65 major wildfires in seven western states this August. From Central Washington to North Idaho, over 2,000 firefighters are tackling more than two dozen wildfires that cover 1,000+ square miles. The fires, which cover an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, are expected to burn until the snow starts falling in mid-November.
In addition to the obvious risk to life and property, wildfires create smoke and ash, which can affect you even hundreds of miles away from the burn zone. Smoke contains fine particles, which easily and quickly penetrate the lungs even during short exposure. If you suffer from a heart condition,asthma or other respiratory issues, you’re at greater risk. The good news is, Blueair SmokeStop™ filters are specifically designed for environments with heavy gaseous pollutants, such as smoke, odors, and harmful VOCs.
According to a recent study conducted by Climate Central “Wildfires burning within 50-100 miles of a city routinely caused air quality to be 5-15 times worse than normal, and often 2-3 times worse than the worst non-fire day of the year.” Large metro areas are also at risk of wildfire pollution. The same study showed that at least twice in the last 12 years, cities like Los Angeles and San Diego have seen Beijing-level air pollution from wildfires burning in southern California.
In Spokane, Washington, air quality was recently determined to be "unhealthy for everyone.” If you’re in an area affected by wildfire smoke, it is a good idea to check your local Air Quality Index to get regular updates throughout the day. Websites like Airnow.gov will give you an up-to-date overview of your current air pollution.
When air quality is at an unhealthy level:
- Stay indoors as much as you can
- Turn off your A/C to avoid pulling in outdoor smoke
- Change your home's air filter regularly
- Look for an N95 or N100 mask with two straps to go around your head
- Be informed -paper dust and surgical masks do not protect against the fine particles in smoke
If you or someone you know are in an area affected by wildfire smoke, a Blueair purifier with added SmokeStop™ filters can help you breathe easier.