Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning trees and plants, buildings, and other material. People with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or heart disease, and children, pregnant women, and responders are especially at risk. Citizens for Clean Air of Grand Junction, Colorado has some tips on how to stay safe amidst smoke from western Colorado’s wildfires.
1. Use the real-time Air Quality Index information available in your area. Go to www.purpleair.com/map and enter your town in the search box on the top left of the map. Dots on the map indicate neighborhoods where monitors are located and the air quality levels. Dots outlined with black circles indicate indoor air quality monitors.
2. Purchase your own outdoor and/or indoor particulate sensor to monitor the air in and around your home/office. PurpleAir.com sells models that can be registered on the user-friendly, real-time internet mapping system, with public viewing available. See www.purpleair.com
3. Purchase a free-standing, portable air purifier. An air purifier uses a blower and high- quality filters to clean your room air. Portable units are available for small and large rooms and in various types. They work to clear indoor air pollutants, including those from smoke. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, are recommended by the U.S. Department of Health for their ability to remove at least 99.97% of airborne allergens and pollutants. Ozone-based purifiers are not recommended because ozone is itself harmful to people. Available air purifiers can be found at https://bit.ly/3h6EMNo
4. According to the CDC, masks that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 offer little protection against wildfire smoke. They do not catch small, harmful particles in smoke that can harm your health. To protect your lungs from smoke particulates when outdoors, a mask with a pocket for a carbon filter insert may be more helpful. They can also be used outside during high air pollution days in the winter. There are several varieties and prices available and searchable by entering “face masks with PM2.5 inserts” on your internet browser.
5. Upgrade the removable filters on your centralized A/C heating system. The filters work to clear indoor air pollutants, including PM2.5, generated by smoke. Different types use different filtering techniques to draw particulates out of your room space: HEPA, Ionizers, electrostatic purifiers, and activated carbon filters. Find out the types available at https://www.homeclimates.com/blog/air-filter-types
6. Window-mount refrigerated air conditioners (A/C) are a fairly inexpensive alternative or addition to a swamp cooler household. These may have two modes: the vent mode will only bring smoky outside air into your space. Use of the typical non-vent mode, however, recirculates existing room air as part of the cooling process. To make sure
you’re not re-circulating poor air, you can purchase an indoor air purifier, noted above, to work in conjunction with an A/C window unit (Note: both the A/C and purifier use more electricity than a swamp cooler. Use of solar power will save energy costs.)
Additional tips for home or office during high pollution days:
· Use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner and keep your space dust-free.
· Keep windows and doors closed, turn off the swamp cooler and seal off swamp cooler registers with plastic, or pre-made vinyl covers (available at hardware stores).
· Wet-mop the floors and clean surface areas where particulates can settle.
· Don’t use scented candles.
· Change to healthier cooking habits that don’t pollute the indoor air. Frying, cooking with a wok, and sauté methods typically emit particulates and harmful toxins into the home environment.
Remember: If you smell smoke, you’re breathing smoke.