Fire Smoke- the Source of Toxins in the Air

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This year wildfires smoke has prompted hazy and cloudy skies in California and Oregon. Research by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) revealed that fire smoke contains air pollutants like lead, zinc, manganese, carbon monoxide, and other dangerous gases and also contains respiratory viruses.

According to CARB, wildfire-burning structures can produce a spectrum of poisonous and toxic substances dangerous to public health.

This year wildfires are significantly occurring in the Western United States, and they can also affect long-distance areas that are miles away.

The air quality index could reach 100, reported New York state on July 20, which indicates that people with a weak immune system and allergic people can go through severe health illnesses.

Exposure to smoke can cause burning eyes, running nose, and long-term exposure can result in chronic heart diseases and respiratory issues. In addition, studies showed that inhalation of polluted fine particles could result in death; it’s also associated with premature death.

Large fire leads to severe conditions. An Air Quality Health Advisory was issued for New York state because of highly elevated particle pollutants from wildfire in the United States and Canada.

The current year’s California fire season has influenced massive swathes of the United States, with smoke plumes carried on the jet stream as far as to the East Coast.

 

How to determine air quality?

Dr. Len Horovitz is a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City; he told Healthline that four or five different particles determine air quality: ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and that gives an air quality index.

He further added that air quality is estimated on a numbered scale from 0 to 500, yet it doesn’t need to go anywhere near that high before introducing substantial health risks.

“From 0 to 50 it starts to be good, from 50 to 100 it starts to be moderate ‘not good,’ and anything above 150 to 200 — even though the scale goes to 500 — but above 150 to 200 is [considered] terrible air quality,” Horovitz reported.

And according to AirNow.gov, home of the U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), recording between 150 and 300 results in severe health effects for everyone.

 

 

Poor air quality health effects:

Research by the New York State Department of Health reveals that PM 2.5 is fine particulate in the air, affecting the eyes and reducing visibility. In addition, fine particulate matter increased amount causes the air to appear hazy.

“The theory, of course, is that particulate matter, the PM 2.5 of particles, once they’re smaller than 2.5 microns, are small enough to burrow into the lungs and create or exacerbate any underlying lung conditions,” Horovitz said.

“Be it asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and of course COVID-19; it may be more of a fertile ground of inflammation for COVID-19 to settle in,” he added.

Horovitz underlined that this hypothesis “certainly makes sense” when you look at the worsening of chronic diseases by polluted air quality, smoke inhalation, and West Coast wildfires.

However, distancing yourself from the wildfires could assist in lessening the risk significantly.

“The more that it [wildfire smoke] can be diluted as it travels from west to east, the better,” Horovitz said. “It’s less dense here on the East Coast than it is in the West, so yes, the more that it spreads out, is diluted by the jet stream, by moisture, with rain taking particles out of the air, the better.”

How to protect yourself from poor air quality?

“We can all have HEPA air filters in our indoors, our living spaces,” advised Horovitz.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate air [filter]” and is a type of pleated mechanical air filter. It’s capable of removing at least 99.97 percent of contaminants and “any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).”

“Staying indoors, using HEPA air filters, using air conditioning, these are things that people on the West Coast are doing to try to avoid toxic levels of particulate matter,” Horovitz said.

Experts reported that air pollutants in wildfire smoke could intensify lung-related wellness conditions and raise the risk of coronavirus infection and developing COVID-19.