Be Smoke Smart
What is in wildfire smoke?
Smoke is composed primarily of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and several thousand other compounds. The actual composition of smoke depends on the fuel type, the temperature of the fire, and the wind conditions. Particulate matter is the principal pollutant of concern from wildfire smoke for the relatively short-term exposures (hours to weeks) typically experienced by the public. Particulate matter is a generic term for particles suspended in the air, typically as a mixture of both solid particles and liquid droplets. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) found in smoke tend to be very small - less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. For comparison, see the how PM2.5 compares with a human hair:
What are the health effects of wildfire smoke?
The effects of smoke range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and premature death. Studies have found that PM2.5 is linked (alone or with other pollutants) with increased mortality and aggravation of pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In addition, particulates are respiratory irritants, and exposures to high concentrations of particulate matter can cause persistent cough, phlegm, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Particles can also affect healthy people, causing respiratory symptoms, transient reductions in lung function, and pulmonary inflammation. PM2.5 can also affect the body’s immune system and make it more difficult to remove inhaled foreign materials from the lung, such as pollen and bacteria.
Air quality index (AQI) for PM2.5
- Stop outdoor activity; stay inside and reduce activity.
- Keep AC on if available, the fresh-air intake closed, filter clean, and windows closed.
- Don't use whole-house fans and swamp coolers.
- Pay attention to air quality on AirNow.gov, your local air district website (OurCleanAir.com), and local media.
- Consult local visibility guide to approximate air quality.
- Follow the advice of your doctor especially those with heart or lung disease.
- Don't rely on dust masks.
- Stay hydrated.
- Keep indoor air clean; don't burn candles, vacuum, or smoke tobacco products.
- Consider relocating temporarily.
- Prevent other wildfires from happening by Living with Fire.