Understanding the Impact of Wildfires on Air Quality and Your Health
and how having a respirator mask can help protect you
In a previous post, we talked about the air quality index. One of the biggest reasons for poor air quality is because of wildfires. Wildfires happen every year, but in 2023, the US has been particularly prone to some very large fires.
Updated on July 18th 2023, NIFC.gov, posted that 4 new wildfires occurred on the west coast in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. And as of the time of this writing, nationally, 24 active large wildfires have already burned 136,061 acres in seven states.
Although year to date, the total number of wildfires is down, they have been unusually larger this year. If you live in a city, you may think your protected from the effects of wildfires, however the smoke from the fire can actually travel a quarter way around the globe (https://www.cbsnews.com/minnesota/news/how-can-wildfire-smoke-travel-so-far/).
Wildfires impact air quality by relasing a wide range of pollutants and particulate matter into the atmosphere. This is why it’s important for anyone that may be outdoors to keep a respirator mask or gas mask in their go-bag.
What are some common pollutants released from wildfires?
Wildfires release air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) emissions, smoke and haze, carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and chemical pollutants.
These pollutants cause an array of issues on people’s every day life including their regional and long-distance transport, climate implications, and health impacts.
How do airborne pollutants from wildfires affect your health?
Particulate matter emissions from wildfires produce large quantities of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), which are tiny airborne particles that can penetrate deep into the respiratory system when inhaled. These particles can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues and have adverse effects on cardiovascular health.
Smoke and haze from wildfires can cover vast areas, leading to reduced visibility and increased haze. Smoke consists of various gases, aerosols, and PM, which can be harmful when breathed in.
Carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds released from wildfires can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a harmful air pollutant. Ozone can irritate the respiratory system and worsen existing respiratory conditions.
Wildfires also release various chemical pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and hazardous air pollutants, which can have adverse health effects.
Poor air quality resulting from wildfires can lead to a range of health issues, including respiratory problems like asthma exacerbations, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections. It can also worsen pre-existing conditions such as heart disease and may have more severe effects on vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory issues.
How can everyone protect their health from pollutants and irritants from wildfires?
First and foremost, try and stay indoors and purchase an air purifier to help keep the air in your home clean and efficient. However, for most of us, we HAVE to get outdoors, so we recommend everyone to carry a “go-bag” and in the go bag, keep a full face respirator or gas mask.
A full face respirator mask is reusable, typically includes both a particulate and organic vapor filtration component, and can protect your eyes as well as your nose and mouth from harmful pollutants from wildfires.
Our #1 recommendation is the Parcil Safety ST-100X Full Face Survival Gas Mask – this mask comes stock with a 40mm organic vapor and particulate dual combination filter canister, which can filter out most of the harmful chemicals and particulates from a wildfire.
You can purchase one HERE and feel free to use WILDFIRE25 to save 25% off on your next purchase!