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About 1 in 7 Americans have been exposed to dangerous air quality as a result of wildfires this year, according to National Public Radio. Residents of California, Oregon and Washington have been most affected as a particularly destructive wildfire season has damaged millions of acres of forest on the West Coast. The August Complex wildfire in California recently surpassed 1 million acres, making it the largest wildfire in recorded state history, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. residents have been on high alert regarding air quality for months as the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the nation, claiming more than 200,000 lives. Now, nearly 50 million people in California, Oregon and Washington have another airborne threat to worry about: microscopic particles from forest fires that can penetrate the lungs and lead to a range of health problems, including respiratory issues and heart and lung diseases. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children, older adults, and individuals with existing heart or lung diseases are most at risk for developing health issues as a result of wildfire smoke.  

Luckly, there are some steps you can take to reduce your exposure to airborne pollutants from wildfire smoke and minimize risks to your health. These measures include

  • Checking air quality reports and staying updated about the evolving wildfire situation
  • Using portable air purifiers
  • Staying inside as much as possible with doors and windows closed
  • Running air conditioners with clean filters in “recirculation mode” so that outdoor air isn’t drawn inside
  • Avoiding activities that cause indoor pollution, such as burning candles, frying food, vacuuming or smoking
  • Avoiding outdoor activities—especially those that require heavy exertion, such as running or exercising 
  • When outside, wearing a fitted N95 mask (if available) or masks made from tightly woven fabrics

The CDC notes that paper or dust masks, such as those commonly found at hardware stores, are meant to protect from large particles and will not protect lungs from small particles found in wildfire smoke. 

Life Balance Technologies helps hospitals and other companies easily analyze air quality conditions and effectively manage their HVAC systems. By streamlining the process for compliance, auditing, and reporting, we help reduce costs and save lives.