It began with a sense of dread and a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Our friends stood there in shock. They told us they woke up and had about a minute to escape from their home, driving through the embers and smoke with a high wall of flames behind them.
The fire was not far from our own home so we all evacuated to the coast. We came home yesterday, grateful our home is fine and that our air purifier is keeping our indoor air clear from smoke.
My heart aches for our community – the lives lost, the thousands of homes destroyed, all the people who are devastated from loss. And it’s not over yet, the fires are not contained and we all remain on high alert.
The beauty I’m seeing is a huge outpouring of love and assistance from people in our community – giving everything they can to those in need. It’s truly extraordinary. I saw a sign today that said, “The love in the air is thicker than the smoke”. That says it all.
Air quality is at dangerous levels from wildfire smoke
With wildfires all over Northern CA, the air quality is horrendous. Children are more susceptible to respiratory irritants because their lungs are still developing. Particles from smoke are very small, between 0.4 and 0.7 microns. These particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs but can be removed with the appropriate air purifier for smoke.
Here are excerpts from a report by the California Air Resources Board:
“The effects of smoke range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and premature death. Studies have found that fine particles are linked (alone or with other pollutants) with increased mortality and aggravation of pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In addition, particles are respiratory irritants, and exposures to high concentrations of particulate matter can cause persistent cough, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Particles can also affect healthy people, causing respiratory symptoms, transient reductions in lung function, and pulmonary inflammation. Particulate matter can also affect the body’s immune system and the physiological mechanisms that remove inhaled foreign materials from the lungs, such as pollen and bacteria. As noted earlier, particulate matter exposure is the principal public health threat from short-term exposures to wildfire smoke.”
“Carbon monoxide (CO) enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reduces oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues. CO concentrations typical of population exposures related to wildfire smoke do not pose a significant hazard, except to some sensitive individuals and to firefighters very close to the fire line. Individuals who may experience health effects from lower levels of CO are those who have cardiovascular disease: they may experience chest pain and cardiac arrhythmias. At higher levels (such as those that occur in major structural fires), CO exposure can cause headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion, nausea, disorientation, visual impairment, coma, and death, even in otherwise healthy individuals.”
“Wildfire smoke also contains significant quantities of respiratory irritants, which can act in concert to produce eye and respiratory irritation and potentially exacerbate asthma. Formaldehyde and acrolein are two of the principal contributors to the cumulative irritant properties of smoke.”
Here’s what you can do if your air quality is bad
Don’t rely on dust masks. Get a mask with a particulate respirator that is “NIOSH-approved” and marked N95, N100 or P100.
Stay inside if you can and keep your windows and doors closed. If you’re using an air conditioner, keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
Get an air purifier for smoke in your home. You’ll need an air purifier for smoke with a true medical HEPA filter that removes particles down to 0.3 microns. Avoid “ozone air purifiers” and “ionic air purifiers” as these are not effective at removing fine particulates.
HEPA filters alone do not remove chemicals and gases so it’s important to use a HEPA air filter that includes activated carbon impregnated with potassium iodide and zeolite. This will capture formaldehyde and other VOCs.
The Austin Air Healthmate Plus Air purifier does all this, and is what I’m using in my home. It’s the best I have found for efficiency and value.
My heart goes out to all those affected by the wildfires and other tragedies. May we all be safe and feel love and compassion for each other.