OAKLAND, CA | June 21, 2023
The summer season means hotter temperatures and drier weather, which brings renewed concerns about the threat of wildfires and wildfire smoke. As climate change fuels more frequent and intense incidents, the American Lung Association in California encourages Bay Area residents to be prepared and take steps to protect themselves from the health harms of wildfires.
Breathing wildfire smoke can be extremely harmful to the lungs and is unhealthy for everyone to breathe. However, this smoke is especially dangerous for children, older adults, those who may be pregnant as well as people with lung disease like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Protecting lung health should be part of a wildfire emergency plan. As general recommendations:
• Stay indoors: People living close to the fire-stricken areas should follow guidance from local authorities, and remain indoors to reduce breathing smoke, ashes and other pollution in the area if instructed to do so.
• Monitor your air quality forecast: Keeping track of the current air quality information can help you know when to take steps to protect yourself from unhealthy levels of air pollution from wildfires and other sources. Media outlets report on local air quality conditions year-round, or you can go to EPA’s Air Now website.
• Take precautions for kids: Extra precautions should be taken for children and teens, who are more susceptible to smoke. Their lungs are still developing and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) for their size than adults.
• Protect the air in your home: Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and air cleaners. Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting to keep from pulling outside air into the room. Air cleaning devices that have HEPA filters can provide added protection from the soot and smoke. Place damp towels under the doors and other places where the outside air may leak in. You can also watch this video on how to create a clean room in your house.
• Don't exercise outside: If you live close to or in the surrounding area, don't exercise outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or notice eye or throat irritation.
• Don't count on a dust mask: Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, and cloth facial coverings will not help. They still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Special, more expensive dust masks with an N-95 or N-100 filter will filter out the damaging fine particles, but may not fit properly, are not made for children or adults with facial hair and are difficult for people with lung disease to use.
• Prepare to evacuate if directed: Listen to your local or state officials and act when ordered to protect yourself and your family. In advance, prepare any medications, medical devices, emergency contact information and a list of prescriptions to take with you.
• Ask for help: The American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect yourself during wildfires.
For additional information about wildfires and lung health, visit Lung.org/wildfires.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.
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