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Wildfire Smoke’s Impact on Your Health

August seems to bring us a slew of wildfires and the resulting smoke is quite unbearable. It has been suffocating at times, and for those without air conditioning it is very hard to get comfortable at home. Can’t go outside, hard to tolerate inside. This summer has been horribly smokey.  We can hardly see our beautiful mountains, and sometimes the smoke is so close that we can smell it. Wildfires are part of a reality in our area and the effect on our air quality is unavoidable.

Dangers of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke is constructed of an amalgam of particles from burning vegetation, burning materials, and a mixture of gases. During and after a fire, hundreds and thousands of chemicals can be found in the smoke traveling through the air, and the scary results of this smoke is the hazardous effects presented to human health from these dangerous compounds. These compounds consist of fine particles* that can enter into the human body and lead to an array of potential health issues.

*This fine particulate matter found in wildfire smoke is measured at about 2.5 micrometers in diameter or close to 1/20th the width of a human hair!

Wildfire Smoke Health Effects

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), wildfire smoke can trigger and cause the worsening of a number of health problems including degraded lung function, asthma, infectious bronchitis, and even heart failure. 

Particular groups of people can experience a significant impact to their health from wildfire smoke including those plagued with heart or lung disease, children, older adults (elderly), pregnant women, and a person afflicted with diabetes. These individuals are more susceptible to wildfire smoke due to a compromised immune system that has a harder time of fighting off invaders in the body. If you fit into any of the above categories, it is important to minimize outdoor exposure to wildfire smoke as much as possible or be prepared with protective gear like a wildfire smoke mask for respiratory protection.

Wildfire Smoke Mask for Respiratory Protection

Masks for wildfire smoke protection need to be closely looked at to ensure they offer the necessary level of protection for the particulate matter in wildfire smoke. A typical dust mask that you can purchase at any hardware store is presumed to shield your respiratory health from the harmful substances contained in wildfire smoke. However, you may want to think again! Wildfire smoke yields gases and chemicals, as well as fine particulate matter that is not shielded by a cheap dust mask. Instead, you will want to utilize a N-95 NIOSH approved mask or even an effective air-purifying respirator mask to help aid in the neutralization of all smoke components including chemicals, gases, and most importantly particulates.