Wildfires rage across the world every year, and unfortunately, they don’t only damage land and property, they’re also incredibly harmful to our health. When inhaled, wildfire smoke can cause a huge array of health issues. Chronic heart and lung diseases can be made worse by the chemicals found in smoke, and other side effects range from burning eyes and runny noses to the exasperation of pre-existing health conditions. In fact, premature death has even been linked to wildfire smoke, with 50 to 80% of wildfire-related deaths being caused by smoke inhalation.
A huge number of people across the United States live within range of wildfires and are at risk of inhaling harmful particles and chemicals. But what exactly is in wildfire smoke that causes it to be so dangerous?
What Compounds Make Up Wildfire Smoke?
During the burning of wood and other organic materials, gases and fine particles are released that are commonly known as smoke. The most dangerous part of smoke is its fine particles, which can cause damage to the body when inhaled. But what else is in wildfire smoke that makes it so deadly?
Water vapor, gases, and small particles make up wildfire smoke. Although smoke is primarily composed of water vapor, it also includes carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and organic volatile compounds that are irritants as well as very small particles. Here is a more specific breakdown of compounds found in wildfire smoke:
- Hydrocarbons – a compound made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms.
- Nitrogen oxides – a gas made up of nitrogen and oxygen atoms. Nitrogen oxides play a significant role in air pollution, smog, and acid rain.
- Carbon monoxide – a colorless and odorless gas that causes issues within the body by preventing oxygen from reaching organs and cells, which can lead to death.
- Formaldehyde – a type of VOCs; colorless, flammable gas that is associated with numerous health risks when inhaled, including increased risk of cancer.
- Acrolein – an unsaturated aldehyde that can irritate the nose and throat, as well as cause lightheadedness and dizziness.
- PM2.5 – ultrafine particles that can easily travel into the respiratory tract and reach the lungs, causing health issues such as coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath.
- Larger particles are less concern because they usually do not enter the lungs but can they still have a negative impact to our health.
Inhaling any of the above compounds can be damaging to health. It is especially important to stay up to date on air quality if you reside in an area where there is a risk of smoke inhalation from wildfires. People who are particularly sensitive to the effects of smoke or are more likely to suffer negative outcomes need to take extra caution. Such individuals include those who suffer from heath and lung problems, elderly individuals, young children with developing respiratory systems, and pregnant women.
How to Protect Yourself From Wildfire Smoke
When it comes to preventing the effects of wildfire smoke on yourself and others, nothing beats a good air purifier. Smoke, nanoparticles, and chemicals can all be removed from the air by a top-of-the-line air purifier like the Filtr Revolution. Using a cleanroom-grade HEPA filter and a 4-stage air restoration process, the Filtr Revolution works wonders for ensuring the air you breathe is free from harmful smoke particles.
The 4 stage process starts with an anti-microbial pre-filter designed for larger ash particles unburned wood particles carried by winds. Air then passes through a Carbon filter to remove VOCs and help with the overwhelming smokey smell. The third phase is a HEPA filter that captures and removes 99.995% of fine and ultrafine particles common in air effected by wildfires. Finally, a Bipolar Ionizer continually releases ions into the air to outright eliminate particles, or make them heavy enough to fall out of breathing range or get caught in a subsequent Filter pass.
Breathing in the compounds that make up wildfire smoke can be detrimental to your health and, in many cases, cause death. In order to ensure you are properly protected and inhaling clean air during wildfire season, it’s important to purify the air you breath using a high-quality air purifier like Filtr Revolution.