What makes fire smoke so dangerous?
Wildland fire smoke often includes:
- Water vapor, particulates and trace elements.
- Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides
- Hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (contribute to elevated ozone levels)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including acrolein and formaldehyde (dangerous respiratory irritants)
Where are Wildfire areas?
Natural wildfires occur regularly in North America. The forests in the western part of the United States and the northern forests of Canada depend on periodic wildfires for regeneration. However, over the past century, the intensity of these fires has increased dramatically in many areas, thus threatening people and wildlife in those regions. The U.S. state of California has repeatedly struggled with devastating wildfires. 2015 went down as one of the worst wildfire years in U.S. history. In that one year alone, 4.1 million hectares were burned – the largest area consumed by forest fires since records began.
Areas in Europe are regularly destroyed by wildland fires too. Spain, Italy and Portugal are often badly affected due to the high temperatures in summer.
NASA’s forest fire map allows you to track forest fires live online. In addition to current forest fires, it also shows areas that have burned in the past.
How do I behave in a forest fire?
In the event of a forest fire, it is most important to limit the exposure to smoke as much as possible – especially if you already have a health risk due to respiratory illness. These are critical steps to take to protect your health:
- Track local air-quality reports. As smoke levels increase, so do the concentrations of particles in the air. You can get air-quality reports from local news media and local air agencies.
- Even if there are no measuring devices at hand; If it looks or smells smoky outside, it’s not a good time to mow the lawn or go for a run. And for children – especially those with asthma – it’s not a good time to be moving around outside. When you’re active outdoors, pay attention to your body’s symptoms.
- Have a several-day supply of nonperishable foods on hand that don’t need to be cooked. Cooking – especially frying and grilling – can further increase indoor air pollution.
- If recommended to stay indoors, take measures to keep your indoor air as clean as possible. Windows and doors should be kept closed. Windows to ventilate the house should only be opened if the air-quality level has improved.
- Try to keep indoor particle concentrations as low as possible. Therefore, avoid anything that burns, such as wood-burning fireplaces, gas stoves – and even candles. Vacuuming during this time should also be avoided, as this will stir up particles that are already in your home.
- Consider buying a portable air purifier to increase your indoor air quality level
Which health problems does smoke cause?
Smoke exposure from wildfires has been associated with increased hospitalizations and emergency room visits for respiratory symptoms, exacerbation of asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
It is important to pay attention to local air quality reports during a fire, especially if you are part of one of these at-risk groups:
- People with heart or lung disease
- Children, including teenagers
- Pregnant women
Based on analyses, the increase in indoor particle concentration during a forest fire ranges from 49% to 76% of the increase in outdoor air particles, with the range depending on the particle size, which is between 0.25 and 5 micrometers in diameter.
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Air quality warnings help you to stay informed during forestland fire outbreaks. Air pollution caused by fires spreads quickly and dramatically impacts air quality, even in locations far from the source of the fire. With air quality alerts from Breezometer, it’s easy to keep up to date with real-time information about fires and changing air quality levels
How can an air purifier help?
Indoor air purifiers help reduce indoor particle concentrations. However, when deciding to purchase an air purifier, don’t wait until there’s a fire to do so – this decision should be made beforehand. Still, not all air purifiers do a good job of removing smoke particles. Before the purchase, you should pay attention to the noise level and power consumption of the air purifier, after all, it must run 24 hours a day – even overnight – so that it can perform effectively. Particularly quiet air purifiers have a noise level of 22- 55 dB. Also, do not buy an air purifier that produces ozone. This will only lead to higher levels of air pollution in the house.
In our article “The best air purifier 2021” we present additional criteria that should be considered before buying an air purifier.
Inhaling smoke gases can cause serious damage to your health, as the toxic gases can severely damage our mucous membranes and respiratory tract and prevent the transport of oxygen in our body.
Smoke aerosol is a mixture of solid-liquid particles. The diameter of these particles is 0.1 – 1.0 micrometers. For comparison, red blood cells have a diameter of about 8 micrometers.
The OneLife X is capable of filtering particles as small as 0.01 microns and thereby removes 99.99% of all harmful particles from indoor air.
The countries in the Amazon region, California and Australia are most affected by bush fires every year. In Europe, wildfires occur mainly in Spain, Italy and Portugal