Advertise
Free Compliments of our Advertisers
Sonoma County Gazette
Deadlines
Subscribe
Menu
Smoky Air
Northern Californians have to assess the risk of and protection strategies for the health effects of smoke.

Air Quality

Dec 26, 2018
by Gary Pace M.D.

Share:

As Jerry Brown says, we are now in the period of “the new abnormal,” with a year-round wildfire season and recurring problems with cataclysmic fires and smoke.  Since our air in Northern California has historically been very clean, we now have to learn how to assess risk and protect ourselves from the health effects of smoke. 

Health Impacts 

The particles in smoke (especially very small ones,  PM 2.5 with a diameter of less that 2.5 mm) are the most problematic for human health. These particles can irritate the respiratory tract and make asthma and lung problems worse.  Also, these tiny components can enter the bloodstream and exacerbate heart problems.  People in high risk groups-- children, pregnant women, folks with lung and heart problems, and the elderly-- need to be especially careful. 

Since most of the research on long-term exposures has been with urban air pollution, not with wildfire smoke, the effects of intermittent exposures like we are experiencing are not well understood.  This will hopefully change upon completion of some research that is currently underway. 

Monitoring Air Quality 

Making decisions on how to respond when smoke is in the air depends on a measure called the Air Quality Index.  This is officially calculated by measuring particles with certified air monitor equipment.  By going to airnow.gov, you can get regularly updated readings and activity recommendations for local sites.  

Also, there are several different types of unofficial monitors that can be obtained and placed at home (“Do You Know What You’re Breathing?” New York Times, 11/30/18).  The data from personal monitors is being sent to a website (Purpleair.com), and detailed maps of air quality are being updated regularly.  While these monitors bring in alot more data, there are some discrepancies from these readings and those of the certified sites. 

Preventing Health Impacts 

The most important way to protect your family’s health is to get them away from the smoke.  

  • Leave the smoky area if possible.
  • Outside activities should be kept short and with the least amount of exertion possible.
  • Indoor air is almost always better.
  • Change air filters regularly, and set air conditioning on 'recirculate'.
  • Keep indoor pollutants to a minimum by avoiding cigarettes, aerosol products, candles, and vacuuming.
  • Public buildings like libraries and  movie theaters may be a temporary solution.
  • Some families and communities are developing special
  • ‘clean rooms’ with air filters and tight seals.
  • Leave the smoky area if possible.
  • Outside activities should be kept short and with the least amount of exertion possible.
  • Indoor air is almost always better.
  • Change air filters regularly, and set air conditioning on 'recirculate'.
  • Keep indoor pollutants to a minimum by avoiding cigarettes, aerosol products, candles, and vacuuming.
  • Public buildings like libraries and  movie theaters may be a temporary solution.
  • Some families and communities are developing special

Masks are generally not recommended because m ask use may give the wearer a false sense of security, which might encourage more  physical activity and increased time outdoors. 

Mask use may also be harmful to people with heart or lung disease because it requires more effort to breathe when the mask is on..

  • In situations where they are needed, properly fitted N95 masks have been shown to filter particles and improve air quality.
  • They  can be ordered online or purchased at hardware stores.
  • They  can be reused until they get dirty or damp.
  • Dust masks and bandanas are not useful.
  • Mask use may also be harmful to people with heart or lung disease because it requires more effort to breathe when the mask is on..
  • In situations where they are needed, properly fitted N95 masks have been shown to filter particles and improve air quality.
  • They  can be ordered online or purchased at hardware stores.
  • They  can be reused until they get dirty or damp.
  • Dust masks and bandanas are not useful.
  • Children should not wear masks – they do not fit properly and can impede breathing.  With poor air quality, children should remain indoors and evacuation considered.

Another controversial issue can be school closings.  In Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, if the AQI is 275 or higher, the schools generally will close.  Below that level, the local superintendent will decide depending on conditions at their location and with their building.  While it might seem obvious that schools should close when the air quality hits “unhealthy” ranges, the situation is a bit more complicated.  Because of the HVAC systems in schools, the air quality is often better than in private homes. Another consideration is that for many children, the food provided at the schools is often a major part of their nutrition.  

Other medical considerations include keeping adequate supplies of medicine with your family.  There are no conventional treatments for smoke exposure, other than for asthma or specific symptoms.  Many practitioners in the alternative community do have gentle measures for detoxification that may be worth considering. 

Conclusion 

With the climate changing, we can expect ongoing problems with wildfire smoke.  Learning some basic information about how to protect your family can go a long way. 

 

 

Comments:


Login to Make a Comment

Please support our sponsors:


June 19-23, 2019
sonoma-marinfair.org 

TICKETS & INFO

Events are FREE - Donations are Welcome!
3p ~ “Tales of Life” Three speakers sharing personal narratives
5p ~ “Walks of Life,” describing challenges and opportunities
7p ~ “Celebration of Life” we rock the house with great music

Cloverdale Performing Arts Center
209 N. Cloverdale Blvd, Cloverdale
Advertising SPONSOR Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

 


1410 Bay Flat Rd, BODEGA BAY
(707) 377-4359 • ginochioskitchen.com

Fine Tree Care - Sonoma County Tree Services

Visit Fine Tree Care WEBSITE for a List of our SERVICES - Testimonials and to request a FREE Estimate

http://online.flipbuilder.com/opcf/gqtx/#p=1

Your GUIDE to support locally-owned garden businesses and natural landscaping practices.

Sonoma County Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Shops LOCAL Guide 2018

Sonoma County Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert LOCAL Shops Guide 2018

Flower Shops and Florists of Sonoma County

Please support locally-owned businesses and tell them the Gazette sent you - THANK YOU!