Wildfires have been increasing in intensity and frequency in recent years, aggravated by climate change and global warming. Widespread burning has become a “new normal,” especially in warmer and drier seasons like summertime and springtime. Because of growing temperatures, the soil tends to be dry for longer periods, increasing the chances of drought and lengthening the wildfire season.
How Wildfire and Smoke Affect Air Quality
Aside from the devastation that fires cause to the land and its inhabitants, wildfires can also have a long-term and widespread negative impact on the air quality. The massive fires that burn for hours on end generate large quantities of harmful gases and lead to an increase in outdoor air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, and ozone precursors.
These hazardous gases can greatly impact those who are directly exposed to large amounts, like the area’s residents and the first responders. However, these toxic pollutants can also drift through the air and affect populations residing even a distance away from the wildfires, as far as thousands of square kilometers or square miles.
These emitted gases can have a ripple effect on the ecosystem that last long after the fires have ended.
How Wildfire Season Affects Your Health
What makes wildfire smoke so concerning is that it is made up of extremely small particulate matter, approximately 2.5 microns in diameter, which can penetrate the lungs and trigger various respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
However, unlike viruses, these particles cannot be broken down by the body’s immune system, resulting in long-lasting inflammation that can affect the lungs, liver, kidneys, and even the brain. Wildfire smoke pollution can trigger a wide range of health concerns spanning relatively minor issues like eye and nose irritation, coughing, wheezing, and phlegm, to more severe illnesses such as aggravated chronic lung and cardiovascular issues. Those with chronic or current heart diseases may experience difficulty breathing, palpitations, and fatigue.
In particular, the high levels of carbon monoxide generated in fires can also reduce the body’s delivery of oxygen to organs and tissues, which can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and, if inhaled in high concentrations, premature death.
While inhalation of wildfire smoke is harmful to everyone, some people may be more vulnerable and experience more severe reactions than others. These include:
- People who have chronic lung and cardiovascular concerns, or currently have lung or heart illnesses.
- Children and teenagers, because their cardiovascular systems are still developing, and they breathe more air per pound than adults.
- Older adults, as they are more susceptible to lung and heart diseases.
- Pregnant women, because the smoke can potentially cause health concerns for both the mother and developing child.
Protect Yourself and Your Family During Wildfire Season
Remember that prevention is better than cure. To keep yourself and your family safe during the wildfire season, limit your smoke exposure. If you or anyone in your household has chronic cardiovascular concerns, you should consult with a health care provider and make contingency plans before wildfire season, particularly on medication to have on-hand, and medical action plans if needed.
If you must go outdoors, wear a tightly fitted N-95 or P-100 mask over your nose and mouth. Note that surgical masks and fabric masks will not be effective against wildfire smoke. You should also reduce the amount of indoor pollution by refraining from frying and broiling. If you can, store several days’ worth of non-perishable food that will require minimal cooking.
The EPA also recommends keeping windows and doors closed to keep outdoor air pollution out and using an air purifier with a HEPA filter to improve the quality of air indoors. Let’s talk a bit more about what makes a high-quality air purifier and what elements you should look out for.
The Sans air purifier is designed with a three-stage filtration system for optimum air purification. It comes with a HEPA 13 filter, which is the centerpiece of the air purifier. It catches physical pollutants like pollen and dander, as well as viruses and bacteria that are invisible to the eye.
This is a medical-grade filter that can remove 99.97% of particles that are as small as 0.3 microns, and 99.95% of particles as small as 0.1 microns. Considering that wildfire smoke particles are approximately 2.5 microns in diameter, HEPA filters are effective in catching particles of this size. (Read more about the importance of a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter.)
The HEPA filter isn’t all that’s working hard inside your Sans. It’s protected by a pre-filter, which traps larger physical pollutants like hair and dust, so the main filter lasts longer. While those two filters take care of minuscule particles, the activated carbon filter neutralizes volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and other harmful gases. Together, these filters ensure that you breathe clean and fresh air that is free from hazardous particles and chemical fumes.
To top it off, the inside of the Sans air purifier is sterilized by UV-C light. This deactivates microorganisms and pathogens, preventing them from growing on the filters and polluting the air after the unit has purified it.
Combining the three layers of filtration with the UV-C light, you have an air purification system that traps particles large and small, solids and gasses. It’s a holistic, thorough approach to breathing easier.
Reading to protect your wellness? No matter where you live, having clean air is crucial to your wellbeing. Keep safe indoors and stay healthy during the wildfire season by improving the quality of the air you breathe. Shop with SANS today.