Wildfire season already? How to protect your health this summer

The 2017 Brianhead wildfire. Forest Service photo by Eric Eastep

It’s only April and wildfires have been burning for weeks in Arizona, Nebraska, New Mexico, California, Colorado, and Texas. The climate crisis is not looming in the distant future, it’s here now, and already wreaking havoc and destruction. It will only get worse, and rapidly, if we don’t act now to limit greenhouse gasses.

Wildfire pollution is deadly, and probably the most toxic type of pollution the average person ever inhales. Wood smoke pollution has virtually the same effects as smoking cigarettes. It also causes inflammation in the arteries, narrowing them and making us more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. New research shows that rates of heart attacks in the community are affected even by hourly changes in levels of air pollution.

“Fine particles are respiratory irritants, and exposures to high concentrations can cause persistent coughing, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.  Even in healthy people, exposures to fine particles can potentially lead to transient reductions in lung function, and pulmonary inflammation” (Health Effects Attributed to Wildfire Smoke, EPA). 

If you don’t already have a HEPA air purifier, we strongly recommend you get one for your home, recommend them to your workplace and local schools. Air purifiers are our best defense to protect our health from the harmful particles in air pollution that affect our lungs and heart health. If you do have a purifier, please make sure your filter is up to date and you turn it on!

The research on health effects of air pollution, hourly.