The Colorado fires have affected more than just homes, forests and livestock. They’ve also impacted many people throughout the state and beyond who live downwind from them. Toxic smoke has filled the air around Colorado for weeks, and people with a sensitivity to smoke have had little relief from the fumes.
Forest fire smoke contains a soup of nasty chemicals, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and more. When these fires start burning houses the chemicals get even more toxic. The air was rated as “unhealthy” for days throughout Colorado this summer by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to AIRNow, this smoke can cause an increase in asthma attacks and other respiratory disorders among those exposed to it even for short periods, and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of negative health effects. Those with heart or lung diseases, the elderly, and children are particularly susceptible to the dangers of smoke exposure.
If a forest fire crops up in your area, you can take some simple steps to protect the respiratory health of your family.
- Filter the Air: Stay indoors as much as you can, and run an air conditioner or air purifier to cleanse the air. Remember: just because you can’t see the smoke indoors doesn’t mean it’s chemical-free. In order to properly remove smoke and odors caused by fires, you must use an air purifier equipped with a carbon filter as well as HEPA, or similar-grade, filter. The larger the carbon filter, the more absorption of smoke, odors and chemicals. Check out our top picks for air purifiers specifically designed to target smoke.
- Avoid Burning: Don’t burn anything — including candles — since this can make the air situation within the home even worse.
- Cover Up: When you do have to venture outside, consider wearing a face mask or a damp towel over your mouth and nose, in order to filter out some of the larger particles.
- Evacuate: If the smoke gets extremely thick in your area, you might need to consider evacuating until the fires and smoke have subsided, perhaps staying with family or friends or taking an extended vacation.
Be aware of some of the symptoms of smoke sensitivity, including coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. If you experience these symptoms and they don’t improve, visit your physician for treatment and advice.
In a region with raging forest fires, when houses and land are facing an immediate threat, it can be difficult to focus on something as simple as breathing. It’s important, though, to watch over your family and avoid the negative impact of airborne toxins, even in the midst of a state-wide emergency.
Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the fires in Colorado and other southwestern states.