In addition to the unimaginable loss of life and property that the historic California wildfires are causing to the people in their path, a new health threat has emerged. The smoke from the wildfires that is enveloping much of California is very dangerous, particular for the very young, the elderly, and those with chronic heart and lung conditions.
According to a report published in Kaiser Health News, “Wildfire smoke is dangerous because it contains fine particulates that can lodge deep into the lungs, which can cause or worsen respiratory issues, such as asthma. Some groups are especially vulnerable, including children and older people. The particulate matter floating across much of Northern California in the past week has registered more than 18 times the recommended levels by the World Health Organization. Such levels can trigger acute symptoms like difficulty breathing and headaches — even in otherwise healthy people.”
While experts agree that the best defense againg breathing the harmful smoke is to stay indoors, if you must go out it is advisable to wear a mask. Unfortunatley, not just any mask will do. Dust masks, surgical masks, and bandannas will not filter out the very small particulate matter that makes up wildfire smoke. Kaiser Health News notes that “[t]he California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of Public Health recommend respirators or ‘P100’ masks, both of which are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for health care workers and firefighters.” It is also important to be aware that N95 respirators and P100 masks only filter out tiny particles. They do NOT protect against toxic gases
To learn more about N95 respirators and masks, click here.