Wildfire Air Quality & Its Impact On Human Health

Wildfire Air Quality & Its Impact On Human Health

Explore The Different Aspects Of Wildfire Air Quality

Wildfires can have a tremendous impact on air quality. When smoke hovers over a city, many experts advise millions of people to go inside, shut any open doors or windows, and limit the outdoor activities they complete. 

In the past, this process was enough. Today, research has discovered that these actions don’t adequately keep lungs healthy on smoky days. Experts state that in 2020, 68% of the western U.S.  experienced harm from a single day of harmful air pollution - the highest in twenty years.

Many studies have examined indoor air quality in the case of a wildfire. They found tiny ash particles inside the smoke itself, too small for the average person to see. These can drift inside a bloodstream and bring breathing and heart troubles to light. 

Wildfire smoke particles are microscopic - they can float through any closed and unsealed door or window. This article will further educate you on what you should know about wildfire smoke and its health effects.

How Does Wildfire Smoke Impact the Air Quality Around Us?

Wildfire smoke can drastically impact poor air quality; it’s visible in many ways. Experts share there were many days when heat and pollution levels combined to make dreadful days. These registered in the top 10% in ozone and the top 10% in particulate matter - awful living conditions. 

There are several items in wildfire smoke - carbon monoxide and other gaseous pollutants, hazardous air pollutants, water vapor, and particle pollution. The majority of the smoke is particle pollution. Most of these items come from combustion-related sources such as forest fires. However, there are other sources of particulate pollution. Some can be massive and impossible to breathe in, while others are tiny enough to be inhaled through the mouth and nose. 

The size is what makes wildfire smoke exposure such a problem. You don’t know if the air is polluted until it’s too late.

Wildfire Smoke Air Quality


Effect of Wildfire Smoke on Human Health

For the longest time, air quality was improving with fewer fires. According to tandfonline.com, there was less smoke from wildfires through the 1900s than in pre-settlement times. Now, items like forest fires and prescribed burning fill the air with microscopic particles. Over 80% of these fires occur because of human ignition. 

Smoke from wildfires can have terrible health effects on the body. It can be devastating to the lungs even by indoor sources. Children, older adults, and those with COPD, bronchitis, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma can experience the worst effects of smoke exposure.

The particles in wildfire smoke are tiny; many are no bigger than a particle smaller than a human hair. They can enter the body and place themselves in the lungs. These trigger heart attacks, strokes, and even asthma attacks–all which can be deadly if untreated.


Wildfire Haze Outside Window


The Long-Term Effects of Exposure to Wildfire Smoke

The effects of wildfire smoke last longer than a single coughing fit. They can cause serious health risks, especially if long-term exposure has occurred.

A few of the most prominent health warnings include the following:

  • Burning eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Aggravated heart and lung diseases

Although anyone can suffer from an intake of wildfire smoke, some people are more vulnerable than others. Let’s examine a few individuals who may experience more critical conditions than others.

People with Heart Or Lung Disease

People with heart or lung disease are especially susceptible to wildfire smoke events. Even for healthy people, the smoke can cause problems; those with heart or lung disease can experience extreme aggravations.

Here are a few examples of troubles that can occur for people with lung or heart conditions:

  • Heart failure
  • Chest pain
  • Scratchy Throat
  • Angina
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Emphysema
  • Asthma

It’s critical for those with such health conditions to avoid the hazards of wildfire smoke, as it can cause irreversible damage to their system.

Elderly People

As you age, your body becomes more vulnerable to diseases and failure. Older adults suffer from the long-term effects of intense wildfire exposure and are more prone to lung or poor heart conditions. 

If you are elderly, it’s critical to avoid environments with dangerous smoke levels. Older lungs and hearts can’t work as hard as younger ones.

Children and Teenagers

Children have still-developing respiratory systems. They intake more air than adults, including air pollutants. They’re also more likely to have asthma or other health problems; therefore, it’s critical to care for your children’s health in the smoky air.

A Person With Diabetes

People with diabetes are more likely to have underlying cardiovascular diseases. If smoke invades the heart, it can cause severe damage.

A Pregnant Women

Pregnant people should stay away from smoke. Potential troubles could arise for the woman and the fetus, leading to potentially detrimental results in the future.

How Can I Protect My Family Indoors When There’s an Ash Cloud Event?

There are several ways to protect your family if there is an ash cloud. In such a case, it’s imperative to be proactive in removing any smoke particles you can.


Clear Up Ash

Ash is the most visible leftover when there is a fire. As soon as it stops falling, attempt to remove the ash and additional burnt debris when possible. There is lots of available information online to help provide resources for ash removal.

Elderly individuals, children, or those who have respiratory conditions or are pregnant should not partake in the cleaning-up process. It could expose them to items that could harm their lungs.

Avoid Skin Contact With Ash

Another excellent action you can take is avoiding skin contact with ash. The best way to do this is to wear articles that defend your body.

Here are a few things to wear:

  • Long pants
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Gloves
  • Protective or surgical masks (N95)
  • Closed-toes shoes

Finding these items shouldn’t be too tricky; they may already be in your closet.

Be Careful About Taking Ash Indoor

It’s easy to track ash indoors during a wildfire. If you are in the process of cleaning off the ash, ensure you change before coming inside and wipe down your vehicle to prevent layers of ash from invading. Before you head indoors, take off your shoes so the ash doesn’t follow you.

It’s critical to be careful when cleaning up ash. They can get into the air after you sweep or vacuum, making it simple for people to breathe in the substance.

Try Constant Dry Sweeping

Constant dry sweeping is another excellent way to remove ash and other items inside and outside your home. For the best results, use an electric broom to prevent the particles from flying into the air.

Before utilizing the electric broom, mist the floor with some water. This will keep the particles down and prevent them from floating as you sweep. As soon as you finish, perform wet mopping to grab the rest. Damp cloths and paper towels are the best removal forms, but a HEPA-type vacuum cleaner will also work.

When is Wildfire Season Predicted?

It’s critical to be aware of the wildfire season to stay as healthy as possible. Most wildfires happen in the warmer months, between June and August. In 2022 already, the fire season has sparked natural disasters above average for the past decade.

If you are susceptible to the smoke, take action in these months. Clean ash away when possible. Plan a vacation to less smoky areas for fresh air intake.

How to Stay Informed About Air Quality During a Wildfire

It’s critical to stay informed about air quality. The best way to understand air quality is to examine the Air Quality Index. With this, you can access the air quality monitors in your area.

Why Do Wildfires Occur?

There are naturally-occurring wildfires and those that happen due to human beings. Natural fires occur through lightning or rarely by meteors, volcanoes, and even coal-seam fires.

Human-caused wildfires can occur through several physical activities. They can be intentional, accidental, or severe negligence, such as with abandoned campfires or fireworks.

Reasons For Wildfires


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the safety concerns?

Wildfire smoke can cause damage to the heart and lungs, so it’s essential to have a high-efficiency filter. You can find one of these on our website at Airzey.

Ensure you use a newer fan model, at least 2012 or later. You should also note if the fan has a UL or ETL mark.

What is the best filter for my system?

The ideal high-efficiency filter for your life depends on your air conditioning. You can contact your local air conditioning tech to determine their opinion on the best system for your home.

What can I do to protect my family?

There are many things you can try to protect your house from smoke. Add extra filters and ensure the smoke stays outside. Keep indoors clean and remove any ash collected throughout the fire. If you are at high-risk, consider a vacation or even a move.

What if I have a window air conditioner?

Check your window air conditioner carefully; if there are clear moments of outdoor air quality, open the windows and let the fresh air intake inside. If it’s a central system, shut the dampers of your conditioner.

What is the best way to use a portable air conditioner?

A portable air conditioner is a perfect choice to eliminate the smallest particles. If it can’t run for a long time, put it on high speed whenever possible to remove particles quickly.

What should I do during a wildfire?

If emergency services tell your family to clear the area, follow their orders. If they don’t, still consider removing yourself from the area until the fire vacates.

What if I am near a wildfire?

If you live within a ten-mile radius of a fire, you should clear the area as soon as possible. If you are outside of that location, immediately contact emergency services.

What is Smoke?

Many items make up smoke. The most common components include ash, tar, soot, gas, and particulate matter.

What should I do if my family is at risk?

If your family is at risk, you should keep protective equipment like N95 masks. These will limit the intake of heavy smoke for those at risk.

How do I know if my house is affected by outdoor smoke?

The air outside easily comes inside your home. The most common way is through windows and doors. Thus, it’s critical to have a portable air cleaner to ensure every room can become clean in a fire.

How well do DIY air cleaners filter smoke particles?

There is currently not enough data available on how effective homemade air filter fans are at filtering out cigarette particulates. 

How do I put together a DIY air cleaner?

There are several ways to put together a DIY air cleaner. Some of the best options include adding brackets, duct tape, or a bungee cord to place a furnace vent over a box fan.

What is the best way to filter the air?

The best way to filter air is to select a high-performance air purifier. The ideal choices have a MERV rating of at least 13 and an air position pointing toward the air coming inside the unit.

What do I need to know?

If your house is in an area susceptible to fires, learn about your heating and cooling system. This knowledge can help you turn them on and off to stop smoke from drifting inside. 

What if I cannot close the damper?

Try fans and additional cooling methods if you can’t remove the airflow. Attempt to reduce moving smoke as much as possible for your health.

What if I have a portable air conditioner?

A portable air conditioner is not a good idea if there is a fire. Don’t use it if there is smoke, as it could cause additional smoke to push into the nearest rooms.

Final Thoughts

Wildfires can have a drastic impact on both indoor and outdoor air quality. If you are more susceptible to pollution, take care when the air is smoky. Stay informed and get rid of ash whenever possible for the best results.

Although it can be tricky to steer clear of smoky air, it’s necessary to avoid breathing it in when possible. Stay aware and consider moving away from susceptible locations if you are at high-risk. 

For the best filters and air quality products, shop at Airzey. You’ll be safe and be able to breathe freely should any wildfires surround your home. According to a testimonial from customer Tess, “After purchasing my first home, I wanted to make sure the air quality in my home was top-notch. I love that Airzey offers such a high-grade filter to help reduce the number of harmful pollutants in my new home and keep me healthy.”