Is your area impacted by the ominously titled “smoke season”? For millions of people across the country, smoke season runs from early summer into the fall. While the cause of the smoke is wildfires, many people know the season for the severe smoke that makes air hazardous and hard to breathe.
While these wildfires often occur on the western half of the United States, if the wind is right, the smoke can impact states on the East Coast.
Unfortunately, the widespread impact of the smoke is truly hazardous. On west coast states, the air quality often gets so hazardous that people are not recommended to go outdoors for weeks on end. This prevents children from enjoying their summer break and everyone from being active outdoors. Every time you tune into a news channel, they warn, “Stay in your homes to protect your lungs from the smoke.”
But are the indoors really safer?
Indoor Air Quality During Wildfire & Smoke Season
Usually, indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality.
During the movement to make homes more environmentally friendly through insulation, we inadvertently caused them to trap in all the pollutants you find indoors. These pollutants come from everyday sources: human and pet dander, candles, cleaning products, aerosols, and more. Our HVAC systems also typically pull in outside air and run it through a filter, but we still can feel some of the effects of the outdoor pollutants if the filter doesn’t catch fine particles or if it’s worn out.
That is why the poor outdoor air quality caused by wildfire smoke can impact indoor air quality, too, if we’re not careful.
When we are dealing with particles that are too small to be seen, we use a unit of measurement called microns. A micron is one millionth of a meter – which makes them very, very small. A human hair is around 70 microns.
On average, air filters used in HVAC systems filter out particles that are 5 to 7 microns or larger in size. In the world of microns, these are actually quite large. Although this size is still invisible to the eye, we often deal with particles that are much smaller.
For instance, wildfire smoke particles average .04 to 0.7 microns. These are small enough to get through the filter – and definitely small enough to get into your lungs and cause harm.
Wildfire Smoke’s Health Effects
It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that if we can’t see it, it can’t hurt us. How can something that small impact our health? But our lungs are finely tuned machines that also operate at the microscopic level. Even these tiny particles can impact our bodies.
This size of particles puts them in the fine particle category. They are respiratory irritants, which means that they can cause coughing, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. While these symptoms are more likely when exposed in high concentrations, any exposure can result in effects if someone has pre-existing conditions or other risk factors.
But even in people without risk factors, exposure can lead to damaged lung function and pulmonary inflammation. Because fine particles can impact your lung function, it can also hurt your body’s ability to exhale foreign materials, like viruses and bacteria.
The overall study of effects on your body from wildfire smoke has been limited to a few studies done wildland firefighters, but the US EPA states that, “Initial evidence indicates that continuous (i.e., over multiple days) occupational wildland fire smoke exposure may have a cumulative effect on lung function, with some studies reporting a progressive decline during burn seasons (e.g., Adetona et al. 2016). However, it is unclear if this decline persists across off-seasons and it is difficult to compare a wildland firefighter’s occupational exposure and resulting health effects to those experienced by the general population. But certainly, more caution is warranted during extended exposures.”
While we might not know the full extent of wildfire’s smoke particles on our long-term health, there is clearly enough evidence to suggest that exposure is not something we want. It does have both immediate and long-term impacts that can result in impaired quality of life and, potentially, death. The size of the particle, unfortunately, allows it to slip through our HVAC system’s filters too often.
While staying indoors during smoke season might help some, it does not fully protect you from the effects of wildfire smoke.
How You Can Protect Your Lungs From Wildfire Smoke
You need to filter your air with a filter that is designed to catch particles that small. Now, that is a tricky task. Most filters commonly found on the market are just there to catch the bigger stuff. When we start to deal with particles that small, we’re talking cleanroom-grade filters.
The good news is that the world’s cleanroom clean air experts saw this need and designed a filter to do just that.
The Filtr Revolution was built to bring cleanroom-grade air to everyday homes, offices, public spaces, classrooms, retail locations, and more. It uses a powerful, cleanroom-grade HEPA filter to clean the air. The one-of-a-kind air filter also uses state of the art surface sanitization technology to provide an even cleaner environment.
If you are ready to take charge of your health this smoke season, the Revolution is your answer.