Last year in the Seattle area, we were minimally affected by wildfire season in the city, but it’s hard to predict how this year will go. Prior to 2021, there were summers where we had days where the sky was filled with smoke from nearby forest fires in Canada, Eastern Washington, Oregon, or California. Let’s hope this year will be better, but these tips for lung health are helpful year round, whether there are wildfires in your area or not.
Below is a guest post authored by Thu Nguyen, previously a coordinator at American Lung Association.
With an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires each year, there is urgency for residents—both living with lung disease and without—to prepare for wildfire smoke events. Knowing what to do to protect your lungs during a smoke event can help keep your lungs (and you!) healthy and happy.
American Lung Association’s top recommendations are:
- Monitor local smoke activity and air quality ratings: visit: http://wasmoke.blogspot.com/ or www.AirNow.gov
- Stay indoors: and keep your indoor air clean.
- Close all exterior doors and windows.
- Run air conditioning, set it to recirculate and close the fresh-air intake. If you don’t have air conditioning, visit a local library or public building that has air conditioning and air filtration if it is hot in your home.
- Do not add to indoor air pollution—avoid burning candles or incense, broiling or frying foods, and vacuuming.
- If possible, replace your home’s furnace filter with a MERV-13 or higher (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) to capture the smallest smoke particles.
- Avoid physical activity outdoors if smoke is in the air.
- If you must go outside, wear a NIOSH-approved N-95 or N-100 mask. If you have lung disease, consult with your doctor first since using these types of masks may restrict breathing.
- In the car, keep windows rolled up and vents closed. If able, set air conditioner to “recirculate.”
In addition, the American Lung Association’s Master Home Environment program offers free “Healthy Home Check-ups” for Seattle residents to assess your home’s air quality. Their experts can share personalized tips for how to keep your home’s air clean during wildfire season and beyond.
Here are directions to make an easy and affordable DIY air cleaner at home.
You can learn more here: Master Home Environmentalist Program | American Lung Association