If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles, you may wonder how the air there could get any dirtier. Well, it has… In Orange County, CA, wildfire smoke has caused fine particulate pollution to reach levels that are up to 100 times higher than those on the smoggiest days. This is a serious health threat that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
If you live near a wildfire, you should stay indoors and keep windows closed. However, even these precautions won’t keep the smoke out. The tiny particles in smoke pollution are small enough to make their way through cracks and gaps in buildings.
Frank Hammes, President of IQAir North America, Inc., trains indoor air quality professionals on ways to help residents create healthier indoor environments during natural disasters such as wildfires. Hammes offers the following tips to protect your lungs from wildfire smoke:
After closing doors and windows, use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal cracks around the doors and outside vents.
Replace your furnace filter with a high-efficiency filter upgrade. These are available from most hardware and home improvement stores and cost $10-20.
Run your air conditioning system. You can run the fan only, if you are comfortable with the temperature. Constantly cycling the air through your air conditioning system with upgraded air filters will remove some of the air pollutants.
Don’t run your bathroom exhaust fans, since this can cause more polluted outside air to be drawn into the home.
Create a safe room within your house with the help of a room air cleaner with a HEPA filter. This will be the room where particularly sensitive members of your family, those with emphysema, allergies or asthma can retreat to. Room air cleaners with HEPA filters are available through specialty retailers and can be purchased over the internet. Expect to pay about $700 for a good HEPA room air cleaner. Do NOT use ionizers or electrostatic precipitators that are commonly sold as air purifiers. These products can exacerbate breathing problems as they can create ozone and lead to increased deposition of particulates into lung tissue. Browse HEPA Air Purifiers from IQAir
If you do have to go outside, you may want to wear a fine dust mask (such as an N-95 rated mask), available at home improvement stores. These masks will typically sell for $5-$40. If you do not have access to a mask you may use a wet cloth to breathe through. Do not use the simple surgical masks, as used by doctors, because they are ineffective against small smoke particles.