Wildfire Smoke Health Effects & How to Improve Your Air Quality

Storm Damage & CAT Restoration
Author: Bridgette Smith

Wildfires can have significant health impacts on individuals directly affected by the fires and those residing in areas affected by the smoke.

Below are some health effects associated with wildfires and their lingering smoke damage:

  • Respiratory Issues: Wildfire smoke contains fine particles, gases, and toxic chemicals that can be inhaled deep into the lungs. This can lead to respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and aggravated asthma or other respiratory conditions. People with pre-existing respiratory diseases, the elderly, and children are particularly vulnerable.
  • Irritation and Inflammation: The wildfire smoke can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, causing symptoms like redness, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat, and skin irritation. In some cases, it can also trigger allergic reactions.
  • Cardiovascular Effects: Wildfire smoke can contain fine particles and toxic chemicals that, when inhaled, can enter the bloodstream. This can lead to systemic inflammation, increased blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems, especially in individuals with pre-existing heart or vascular conditions.
  • Exacerbation of Existing Health Conditions: People with pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory diseases (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes may experience worsening symptoms due to exposure to wildfire smoke.
  • Mental Health Impact: Wildfires can cause significant stress, anxiety, and emotional distress for individuals directly affected by the fires or those living in fire-prone areas. Evacuations, property loss, and the general uncertainty associated with wildfires can contribute to mental health issues.

It's important to follow local health advisories and take necessary precautions during wildfires to minimize exposure to smoke and protect one's health. This may include staying indoors, using air purifiers, wearing masks (N95 or higher), and seeking medical attention if experiencing severe symptoms. One of the challenges in combating poor air quality is locating and securing the necessary equipment to maintain air quality standards. With the proper equipment and expertise, it is possible to protect from damaging soot and smoke, reducing air quality and resulting in a safer environment. Keep your employees and guests safe with good air quality. ServiceMaster Recovery Management provides the highest-level expertise to help engineer the most effective, cost-efficient solution for your needs.

To remove wildfire smoke from the air, here are some steps you can take:

  • Close and Seal Windows and Doors: Keep windows and doors closed to prevent outdoor smoke from entering your indoor space. Use weatherstripping or other sealing methods to minimize any gaps.
  • Use Air Purifiers or Air Scrubbers: Use high-efficiency air purifiers or air scrubbers equipped with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to help remove smoke particles from the air indoors. Place them in commonly used rooms or areas where you spend the most time.
  • Create a Clean Room: Designate a specific room in your home as a "clean room" by sealing it off from the rest of the house as much as possible. Use weatherstripping, towels, or plastic sheets to cover gaps under doors or windows.
  • Avoid Activities that Generate Indoor Pollution: Minimize activities that can introduce additional pollutants into the air, such as smoking, using candles, burning incense, cooking on stovetops, or using harsh cleaning products.
  • Use HVAC Systems with Appropriate Filters: If you have a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, use filters with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. Consider upgrading to HEPA filters if compatible with your system.
  • Keep Indoor Air Circulation Minimal: Avoid using fans that may circulate outdoor air into your living space. Instead, rely on air purifiers and HVAC systems with appropriate filters to recirculate and clean the air.
  • Maintain a Clean Indoor Environment: Regularly clean surfaces, vacuum using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, and consider using wet mopping to help remove settled smoke particles from your indoor environment.
  • Monitor Air Quality Advisories: Stay updated on air quality advisories in your area through local news sources or online platforms. Follow the recommended guidelines and instructions provided by health authorities.

If you are experiencing reduced air quality in your facilities or feel the threat of being impacted by Canadian wildfire smoke, don't hesitate to contact SRM. We have the proper equipment available near you to help now. Call ServiceMaster Recovery Management today to speak with one of our experts about commercial fire damage restoration and explore all the ways we can help improve not only your air quality but your peace of mind. Call us at 844-993-0527.