The recent wildfires that laid waste to large parts of California have presented us with a new danger: air so thick with smoke it has ranked among the dirtiest in the world- exceeding that in cities in China and India that regularly rank among the worst.
In communities closest to the Camp Fire, a smokey fog inhibited breathing and covered everything. Evacuees donned white masks and officials said respiratory hospitalizations surged. Nearly 200 miles to the south, in San Francisco, the smoke was so thick that health warnings prompted widespread school closings and people were warned to stay indoors and not exercise.
Research into the long-term health effects of large wildfires is still new. But a growing body of science shows how inhalation of miniscule particles from wood fires can nestle into the folds of lung tissue and do harm to the human immune system.
“The body creates zealous responses to what it sees as an alien presence, and those effects can last for years by priming the body to overreact when it encounters subsequent lung irritation”, said Dr. Kari Nedeau, a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist at Stanford.
In short, researchers like Dr. Nadeau believe that a person’s short-term exposure to wildfire can spur a lifetime of asthma, allergy and constricted breathing.
An extensive study of the 2015 wildfire season in Northern California found that during smoke-dense periods, there was a statistically significant increase in emergency room visits for heart attack, stroke and respiratory infection. The study looked at nearly 1.2 million emergency room visits during the summer of 2015, and found that as the fires progressed, California’s air pollution map shifted from healthier green and yellow to red and purple – and then dark purple.
Officials urged residents to stay indoors. Anyone that had to go outside was urged by state public health department officials to use the recommended P100 masks and N95 respirators, both of which are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for use by firefighters.
In the aftermath of the Camp Fire, some around Paradise said that when they inhaled, they could feel the particles cutting their throats.
Immune cells that respond to foreign particles douse the particles with toxins, among other tactics, to destroy them. But an intense event like extremely poor air quality can prompt such a strong immune response that it can throw the body’s delicate network out of balance, particularly in people predisposed to asthma or allergy.
Wildfires and wildfire smoke have become the norm causing poor indoor air quality.
A vicious cycle can begin each time a person experiences even a small, related stress - like smoke – the body overreacts, leading to constricted air flow and intensifying the risk of heart attack and stroke for some people.
According to the EPA, children, older people, pregnant women and people with asthma or cardiovascular disease may be more susceptible to health hazards of wildfire smoke.
Air purifiers can help with poor indoor air quality due to wildfires.
Tim Heffernan, a science writer and editor at Wirecutter, suggests people in smoke-prone wildfire-affected regions run a HEPA-certified air purifier “on high for an hour, then turn it down to medium or low which should keep the amount of smoke in your home to a minimum.”
HEPA is an acronym for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance which is a rating system for portable, single-room air purifiers. These plug-and-play, self-contained units are relatively inexpensive and are available from home improvement stores.
HEPA Filters are exceptionally efficient - helping to remove 99.97% of all invisible particulate matter in your home, including wildfire smoke, down to 0.3 microns. However, filters rated this high create excessive static pressure (resistance to airflow) so they can cause damage to the fan in your existing home system……meaning, they aren’t ideal for Whole Home HVAC Systems.
Whole Home Air Purifiers
If someone in your home suffers from allergies or asthma you already know the negative impact that polluted air can have. No matter how clean you keep your home, it's likely full of harmful particles that can exacerbate allergies and asthma—and increase the likelihood of colds and flu.
A Whole Home Air Purifier can help you control the purity of the air in your home. Unlike portable, single-room (HEPA) air purifiers, a Whole Home Air Purifier is installed as part of your home’s heating and cooling system - effectively removing polluted air throughout your entire home.
When a whole home air purifier is installed as part of your home's central heating and cooling system, the air in your home runs through a state-of-the-art filter media, delivering clean air throughout your entire home, silently and efficiently.
Unlike air purifiers that only work when your heating and cooling system is running, Event-Based™ Air Cleaning from Aprilaire lets you call the shots. You control when and how the air purifier works based on day-to-day events, conditions and activities, such as:
- Allergy season
- Spring cleaning
- Any time there's extra dust in the air
Keeping clear of the risks that wildfire smoke possesses include keeping the fresh air intake in your ventilation system closed to prevent additional smoke from getting inside and staying indoors as much as possible.
Call us today at 650-322-4328 or click here for an in-home consultation!