In some areas across the American West, fires have made the sky glow orange for weeks and the flames continue to increase. In Los Angeles County, the smoke triggered a noxious health department warning.
“It's hard to say where smoke, ash, or soot from a fire goes, or how winds affect the level of these particles in the air. So we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ashes can even be harmful to health for people who are healthy, ”said Dr. Muntu Davis, LA County's health officer, told KTLA. "These precautions are especially important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung conditions."
Symptoms of smoke exposure often include irritation of the throat and eyes, wheezing, sneezing, lying down, and chest discomfort, even in healthy adults. For children and adolescents, the risk of exposure according to EPA guidelines is even greater because, among other things, their bodies take in more air – and therefore more pollution – per pound of body weight than adults.
While conditions for some coastal communities may improve a bit as early as this weekend, areas further inland or closer to the active burn areas are likely to face dangerous conditions for some time.
Experts say the best you can do is stay indoors as much as possible and do everything possible to keep your indoor air quality as good as possible. That means keeping all doors and windows closed when the temperature allows, and not burning candles, smoking or even cooking in such a way that indoor pollution is created. If you have air conditioning, the EPA recommends running it as long as you have all the appropriate filters in place and your device is not the type that is pushing outside air directly into your home.
For those who want added security about indoor air quality, an air purifier is an option. Note, however, that not every product on the market actually does much to help remove particulates from the air. Some may even create new ozone or have electrical problems that can start a new fire. A list of specific models that have been certified for basic safety by the California Air Resources Board can be found online, but CARB does not provide guidance on effectiveness. In July, Wirecutter's consumer ratings website made recommendations on top models, although many of their products are currently sold out at major retailers.
If you venture outdoors, the face covering you are already wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19 can protect you from some smoke (as long as it's a real mask, not a headscarf or scarf), but in an emergency, experts say you may need to consider N-95 or P-100 style masks. Another tip for going out: make sure that your car air conditioner is only set to circulate the air inside and doesn't draw in smoky air from outside.
Oh, what if you just go outside to take pictures of the crazy sky? Maybe you just don't mind.
RELATED: Wildfire Season is set to be bad this year. So prepare yourself
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