Climate change has led to earlier snow melts, warmer springs and summers, and longer wildfire seasons around the world. Wildfire smoke and ash negatively affect both outdoor and indoor air quality, with air pollution from wildfires increasing smoke allergy symptoms. Fortunately, an air purifier that can handle wildfire smoke can be part of the solution.
With landscapes so dry, a few sparks from a damaged power line can and do set off record-setting fires of unprecedent size and loss of life. In recent years, some fires have been so big that they have created their own weather patterns, along with terrifying fire tornadoes.
Trend towards bigger fires in more places
California, the most populous state in the U.S., has been especially hard hit in recent years, but loss of life and property from wildfires has skyrocketed throughout the western states.
In Europe, huge fires in 2018 devastated wide areas from north to south. In the north of Sweden, some fires have gotten to be so big that firefighters from all over the EU have had to be called in. In Greece, many people were killed by wildfires that burned all the way down to the beaches.
And in Australia, bush fires have been threatening populated areas all over the country more and more every year.
Climate experts say the worst is yet to come, with higher temperatures aggravated by a slower Jetstream causing heat waves to linger longer. In fact, the number of large wildfires in the western U.S. states could increase by as much as 600% over the next 20 years.
Wildfire smoke health effects
In addition to human tragedies, many millions of dollars spent on firefighting, and billions of dollars in property damage, wildfires create smoke and ash, which affect indoor air quality. This has significant health effects even for people hundreds of miles away from the burn zone itself. Smoke contains fine particles, which are especially dangerous, since they easily and quickly penetrate the lungs even with short exposure.
If you suffer from a heart condition, asthma or other respiratory issues, you’re at greater risk. And wildfire smoke obviously also affects pets, who can’t tell you how bad they are feeling.
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.
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’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 or you can download the Blueair Friend app for on-the-go updates. And a Blueair purifier with an activated charcoal, SmokeStop™ filter can help you and your loved ones breathe easier.