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How Wildfire Soot Impairs Indoor Air Quality

July 22, 2021

Have you ever encountered a wildfire in your area? If so, you must admit that it is a safety hazard. Wildfires are a threat to both animals and humans living within or near the area.
Wildfire soot contains various gases and particles from the materials fueling the fire. These include carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic compounds, and particulate matter, which are pollutants associated with cardiovascular and respiratory problems. So, how does wildfire soot affect air quality?

You Are Not Safe Indoors Either

When a wildfire occurs, its smoke can make the outdoor air unhealthy for you to breathe. You may be advised [1] by the local authorities to remain indoors during that period. However, it is wise to know that some of the soot from outside can get into your home making it unhealthy for you to breathe indoor air too.
If you are near a wildfire, the flames, its heavy smoke, and ash can pose significant, immediate risks to your health and safety. You and your family need to be ready to evacuate instantly if advised so. Wildfire soot impacts the entire region and spreads across the nation impacting the health of millions.

Why is Wildfire Smoke Harmful to Your Health?

Smoke comprises [2] a complex mixture of gases and fine particles originating from wood and organic materials as they burn. The most significant health hazard from smoke comes from fine particles. As these tiny particles fly around, they can get into your eyes and the respiratory system, regardless of whether you are outside or indoors.
Once they do so, these particles lead to various health problems, including a runny nose, burning eyes, and other illnesses such as bronchitis. Fine particles aggravate chronic lung and heart problems. They cause premature deaths of those suffering from these conditions.
Although these tiny particles are not a big threat to healthy people, and short-term exposure to wildfire soot may not pose a major risk to them, it is wise to avoid breathing in smoke whether outside or indoors if possible.

Indoor Carbon Dioxide Levels and Your Health

How Smoke Particles Affect Your Health

Once wildfire soot gets in the airway, the small particles get embedded deep in your lungs, they injure the lining. Your body responds by trying to get rid of the foreign particles, which triggers voluntary reflexes such as coughing to help cilia (the little hairs that line the airways’ cells) beat the particles out.
However, your immune cells cannot break down the particles, making them work even harder trying to defeat them. The result is you get more inflammation. While inflammation may be great for fighting off invaders, it might prove dangerous for anyone with underlying conditions such as asthma. Additional inflammation makes these conditions worse.

If you have respiratory issues, it is harder to get oxygen to the rest of your body. Once oxygen gets into the lungs, it proceeds to the alveoli and goes into the blood capillaries.
Whenever your body is fighting off invaders, such as small particles from wildfire soot, your alveoli fill with mucus making it difficult for air to pass through. It also makes it challenging for your body to dispel carbon dioxide, which causes more respiratory distress.

How to Protect Yourself During a Wildfire

It is prudent to control your exposure to wildfire smoke, especially if you are at a higher risk for particle-related effects. For those who live in fire-prone areas, you should always prepare for the inevitable. If you ever encounter wildfire exposure, here are some things you can do to keep yourself safe.

Get the Right Masks:

When getting masks for smoke protection, remember that dust masks are not enough, and neither are surgical ones. These are not effective enough to protect your lungs from the fine smoke particles from wildfires. The right masks are particulate ones also known as N-95 or P-100 respirators. However, these masks need to fit well and used correctly.

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Follow the Set Regulations:

Whenever a wildfire breaks out, the authorities advise those in the surrounding areas to stay indoors. Take extra steps to ensure that your indoor air quality remains healthy. Consider closing all the doors and windows unless the weather is extremely hot. If you have one, run your air conditioner. Also, keep the filter clean to avoid introducing more smoke inside. Once the air quality improves, open your windows to air out your house. Remember to follow your doctor’s advice regarding taking your medications if you do.

Help Keep the Indoors’ Level of Particles Lower:

Fine soot particles build up inside houses when exposed to wildfire smoke even if you cannot see them. Avoid making the matters worse by not cooking anything that burns. This includes avoiding wood fireplaces, gas stoves, gas logs, and candles. Also, avoid vacuuming as it stirs up particles already in your house.
Smokers should avoid smoking during this period as this adds more pollution to your lungs and the lungs of those around you.

Get A Medical Grade HEPA Air Purifier:

If you live in wildfire-prone areas, it is wise to consider buying an air cleaner. The device helps reduce particle levels inside the house provided it is f the right size and type for your rooms. Don’t wait until a wildfire strikes to buy an air cleaner. Instead, be prepared for any eventuality by buying one beforehand.

Conclusion: Get Your Premises’ Air Quality Tested for Smoke Particles

If shut down operations in your office due to a wildfire, consider getting the air quality tested before reopening the premises. There are numerous approved companies such as the [3] IndoorDoctor that is qualified to carry out such tests. We use our virtual testing options to conduct surface and air sampling of harmful and lung-damaging wildfire soot particles whether in your home or business premises. If you find out that you need HEPA filtration to improve your indoor air quality, we recommend the [4] Austin Air Healthmate. Your health matters.  We advise you get your air checked to ensure no lung-damaging particles enter your body after a wildfire. Get in touch with us today, and we will help you improve your quality of life through cleaner air.

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