helicopter dropping sand on wildfire

California wildfires, flood damage and more affecting air quality at home

With the recent wildfires in California, air quality is once again top-of-mind for many people across the U.S.

In a recent New York Times article about air purifiers, writer Kristin Wong mentioned the impact of smoke on long-term health, stating that short-term exposure to smoke does not pose many long-term risks. However, the story states that certain groups, such as children, the elderly, people who are pregnant, or people with asthma or cardiovascular disease are susceptible to health hazards as a result of exposure to smoke. The story also mentions that air pollution and air quality are not simply linked to wildfire smoke, but various other contaminants that we each breathe in daily. So what are we breathing, and what are some ways to keep up-to-date on your local air quality?

 

If you live in a city, you may be familiar with smog and pollution caused by mass transit. Cities often have lower air quality compared to non-urban locales, but those who live in the suburbs or rural areas are exposed to triggers such as allergens, which may be more prevalent in areas with abundant foliage. Air quality can change based on a variety of environmental and human factors, including seasonal changes, weather conditions, manufacturing and production.

According to the World Health Organization, the major contributors to outdoor air pollution include particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. These contaminants affect different parts of the body at different levels and various intensities depending on the amount of exposure. Some countries, such as India and China, see over 1.1 million premature deaths related to outdoor air pollution in a single year. Although air pollution in the U.S. has not yet reached this level, when disasters such as wildfires affect areas in the U.S., air quality drops to record, dangerous lows. Other natural disasters, such as massive flooding from hurricanes like Harvey, which hit Texas this year, can have a negative impact on air quality as well, with fungus and mold spores growing in affected homes.

To stay up to date on the outdoor air quality in your area, you can check out the EPA’s AirNow site, which lets you look up local air quality conditions by zip code and state. If you or someone you know is living in an area that frequently experiences unhealthy air conditions, you may benefit from using a HEPA air purifier in your home. HEPA air purifiers, such as Airmega, are designed to help trap contaminants in the air and keep you and your family safe so that you can breathe deeper.

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