What are the specific measures you recommend to people when they are inside their home? The best thing you can do is to get away, but that’s really not an option for a lot of people. So you know if you’re in a home with AC we suggest that you put it on circulate so that you’re not drawing in air from the outside. If there is a good day where the sky is finally blue and the air is clean, you want to air out your house as best you can. Try and get your errands done on those days as well.
We also talk about possibly finding cleaner air shelters, which can be anything that’s been set up for that purpose or to just going to a mall or library. It could be a church or any other building that you might be familiar with to go to. We have also talked about using masks.
The big thing is just to plan ahead as best you can and when the time comes to limit your exposure to smoke. If you have someone in your home with asthma, just be prepared with what can happen. Limit your exposure to the smoke as best you can. Any little bit will help.
What are the health effects that can result from long term exposure?
Many studies link cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease with long term exposure, especially at high concentrations. You wouldn't get cardiovascular disease with short term exposures, it's more in line with long term and high concentration exposures.
Based on your research, please describe what actions are considered most effective in reducing a person's exposure during a wildfire or smoke events: I think often times you hear the message of "stay inside" but we've done a lot of studies that have shown that wood smoke concentrations are just as high inside of the home as they are outside. So one thing that we recommend people to do is to use air filtration units. Especially if they are a susceptible population, such as someone with asthma or an elderly.
Please describe, why and how the ambient air quality during an event can put a person at risk inside their home, office or school: Outdoor (or ambient) air pollution can infiltrate the indoor environment through cracks, open doors/windows and other small openings. This can result in PM2.5 concentrations being just as high inside as they are outside during a wildfire event.
In some of your research you found that use of standalone air filters can be highly effective in improving IAQ. Please share the highlights of this work: We've sampled over 100 homes throughout Montana, Idaho and Alaska and we've consistently seen about a 60% improvement in indoor air quality when using these filtration units. That said, our studies are more focused on residential woodstoves and using those all winter long as opposed to forest fire smoke effects in the home. In homes that do have residential woodstoves, our measurements often detect very high woodsmoke concentrations. When people use these filtration units however, we see about a 60% reduction in particulate matter.
Published by: Erika Whittaker in THHN Partner Profiles