Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. And the smoke can hurt you long after the fire has died.
State and federal environmental officials, along with air-pollution experts, have put together a to-do list to cope with smoke. The Southern California fires have brought these simple rules–they aren’t new, by any means–back to our attention. Our thanks to the state Air Resources Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Airquality.org.
First, some basics. Smoke is mix of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. The biggest health threat from smoke comes from the fine particles.
These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.
Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases–and even are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.
If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma, you may experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels than healthy people.
Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.
Children also are more susceptible to smoke for several reasons: their respiratory systems are still developing; they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults; and they’re more likely to be active outdoors.
Here are some tips, courtesy of the EPA.