As these forest fires continue to roar with a fierce blaze the smoke will develop in plumes that will travel throughout the air and can taint a far distance past the location of the fire. Last year, California experienced a very scary and dangerous wildfire season, where fires persisted for weeks on end – and left smoke plumes traveling as far as to the east coast. Generally, any type of wildfire that is fiercely burning will taint the outdoor air significantly and this will lead to the potential risk of these plumes and particles entering into your indoor environment and contaminating these personal air spaces.
In this article we are going to discuss the potential dangers that are present in wildfire smoke and tips on how to keep wildfire smoke out of house during a forest fire.
What Kind of Matter is Smoke
The smoke produced from wildfires are comprised of an amalgam of different chemicals and compounds that can be potentially hazardous when present in the air. Smoke is made up of tiny solid, liquid, and gas particles that contains hundreds of different chemicals and fumes. The smoke that is visible in the air that you can see is mainly comprised of carbon (soot), oils, and ash – but most dangerously fine particles that can travel within the smoke from burnt vegetation and wood.
During the process of a fire, some combustion will be incomplete leaving behind missed items that were not burned it will leave a collection of tiny unburned particles that will float within the air that can be hazardous upon exposure through ingestion or inhalation.
The mix of gases and fine particles found in wildfire smoke is cause for potentially significant issues upon exposure to this smoke in the air. Breathing in wildfire smoke can have near immediate effects on health including the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Stinging eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Runny nose
- Chest pain
- Asthma attacks
- And Fatigue
Particulate matter or smoke particles are the primary concern when it comes to wildfire smoke and the dangers when exposure to this smoke occurs in humans. This type of matter is a pollutant of concern that will be closely related with short-term exposure – which can be hours or weeks. The particles that are present in wildfire smoke will be suspended into the air in a mixture of solid and liquid matter that can taint the quality of the air in the environment.
There are various amounts of particulate matter that is released from a multitude of things including a candle, chemical cleaners, and even from cooking in a home. All of these emissions of particulate matter can range in severity and size; thus, it is almost impossible to compare scenarios where particulate matter is released into the air. The particulate matter that is released from the smoke of a wildfire, on the other hand, is something that can be quite severe and usually is found to be very small particulates that range in size from (0.4 to 0.7 micrometers). For comparison purposes to indicate how small this particulate matter is in the air, human hair is about 60 micrometers in diameter, and smoke particulates are less than a fraction of this size.
Tips to Reduce Smoke Exposure Indoors
Before, during, and after a wildfire, smoke will be a major issue that many homeowners will have to take into consideration in preparation for the need to remove and/or reduce the potential smoke exposure that can occur indoors inside of a home. A home is filled with areas where a potential intake of pollutants from outdoors can occur such as a door, window, open spaces around doors and windows, and air conditioning units that can be pushing in air from outdoors into the home.
Below we are going to discuss the most important tips to reduce smoke exposure indoors and why it is important to guard against smoke from entering into your personal indoor environment(s).
- Stay Inside: When wildfire smoke is flooding the outdoor air in big plumes it is critical that you stay indoors and avoid any exposure to this potentially hazardous smoke that is in the air. Inside your home you will need to lock down the home and make it a barrier – this means doors and windows should remain closed at all times. Also, if you have an air conditioning system or a room ac unit, be sure that you are utilizing an efficient filter that is able to combat these potentially hazardous pollutants and remove them from your indoor air.
- Utilize a Face Mask for Wildfire Smoke: Exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs – and when exposure to the lungs occurs it can mean some serious consequences. If you have to go into the outdoor environment where a wildfire is taking place near the area it will be necessary to own and utilize a face mask for wildfire smoke. Respirator masks that are labeled N95 or N100 provide excellent coverage to help filter out fine particles and minimize exposure to the smoke and its particles.
- Minimize Indoor Air Pollutants: Within a home there are a variety of things in the space that can be a source of pollutants inside your indoor air. From candles, chemical cleaners, fireplaces, air freshening sprays, and even stoves can produce pollutants into the indoor air which will taint the air and leave you with minimal options when it comes to eliminating these pollutants from the air – as outdoor air will be highly toxic during a wildfire. It is best to avoid the use of these sources of pollutants in your home during a wildfire, to minimize the levels of pollutants indoors that can be potentially hazardous to human health.
- Portable Air Purifier: The complexity of wildfire smoke and the various components that are present within this smoke matter can be challenging to remove from the air, especially removing it completely from the air. A portable air purifier will be the best source of help when it comes to filtering and removing airborne pollutants from the air – some of these air purifiers work against chemicals, some work against odors, and others work against particulates. Therefore, it is very important to carefully select your air purifier and know exactly what it will be used to remove from the air.
Comparing Different Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke
Among air purifiers currently available today on the market, there are a broad selection of technologies that each of these air purifiers use to make the machine efficient in removing pollutants from the air. The top technologies that most consumers select from when purchasing an air purifier includes Ozone, PECO, Ionizers, Carbon, and a new emerging technology called EnviroKlenz.
Below we are going to compare the different air purifier technologies and determine which are the best to use when trying to filter out and eliminate wildfire smoke from the indoor air and the best air filter for smog.
Ozone generators are air purifier devices that are used in an indoor environment to aid in the removal of odors and pollutants in the air. These devices are designed to intentionally produce a large quantity of ozone into the environment to help remove a broad spectrum of pollutants from the air – but this can also be more harm than good when the ozone is introduced into the human body. Low levels of ozone in the air can lead to irritation of the airways, coughing, chest paint, tightness, and shortness of breath when exposure occurs. Ozone machine dangers can also include aggravation to asthma sufferers and lead to the body’s inability to fight off respiratory infections. Therefore, using an ozone generator during a wildfire for smoke removal will actually increase the risks to public health rather than fight against adverse health effects from smoke exposure indoors.
Ionizers are air purifiers that use a negatively charged ion to remove airborne pollutants from the air of an environment. An ionic air purifier is designed to work against particulate matter like allergens in the environment by attaching a negatively charged ion into the air that will attach to these particulate matters and weigh them down to the ground – this will allow them to collect on the floor of the environment, making them still present in the indoor area. This technology will leave your environment tainted with indoor air pollutants and will be ineffective against smoke odor and particulate removal from the air completely.
Unlike most of the technologies that have been used for a long period of time such as carbon and ozone, there are new emerging technologies that have been designed and implemented for use in an air purifier. One technology is the patented EnviroKlenz technology that is able to break down and eliminate pollutants completely from the indoor air through the use of earth minerals that react with the pollutants to break them down and/or neutralize them completely. The EnviroKlenz Mobile Air System is able to provide toxic and noxious chemical elimination capabilities in a system that also filters particulate matter down to 0.3 microns in size using a hospital-grade HEPA filter. The EnviroKlenz technology is able to address and eliminate many components of smoke including corrosive gases, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, fats & oils, and resins & waxes.
Carbon air filters and air purifiers are among the most popular when it comes to filtering smoke and other pollutants from the air of an indoor environment. Activated carbon air filter uses this technology on the filter media to increase the surface area of the filter to allow the capturing of more pollutants that are traveling in the air. The down-side and potential hazards of carbon air filters and purifiers is that as the filter fills up with pollutants and the filter media reaches maximum capacity, it will begin to re-release captured pollutants back into the air if not changed – and they can often require changing every month or even more frequently.
Wildfire smoke can be significantly hazardous to outdoor air but when it travels inside your home and taints your indoor air quality it will call for action and ways to quickly remove the smoke from the air. By utilizing the tips discussed above and selecting the best air purifier for wildfire smoke you will be able to quickly and efficiently remove and protect your indoor air from smoke pollutants.
Mobile Air System
✓ Patented earth mineral technology works to attack VOCs and break them down on a compound level
✓ No chemicals or masking agents
✓ Will not release any chemicals back into your environment
✓ Safer and faster at removing VOC’s than traditional carbon filters and PECO air purifiers