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West Coast wildfires may be polluting your air

Wildfires ran rampant across much of the West Coast this summer. While the Mendocino Complex fire in California, the largest recorded wildfire in the state’s history, received a lot of attention, many dangerous blazes also ignited in the Cascades in British Columbia and other areas. These fires discharged a lot of smoke in the air, creating an air quality crisis, as the fires released smoke and air particles in surrounding areas and across the country.

Air quality culprits

The raging wildfires emit smoke filled with a hazardous mix of gases and fine particles from burning wood and plant material. These particles come in various sizes, but the smallest are the most dangerous. Because they’re so tiny, they’re able to make their way deep into the lungs and bloodstream, causing everything from asthma attacks to cancer. In addition, the combination of different gases in smoke clouds can form surface-based ozone, which also can lead to health problems.

How bad is it?

Air quality measurements in many areas indicate unhealthy levels of pollution. In Seattle, in late August, the air quality index was at 190, which is termed “unhealthy”; in some areas, it was 220, or “very unhealthy.” An air quality index of 150 is roughly equivalent to smoking seven cigarettes a day. In some cases, particulate matter in certain areas has reached the same level as pollution in Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities.

Make sure indoor air quality is good

When the outdoor air quality is very bad, it’s best to stay inside, if possible. That’s especially important for children, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory problems. In addition, making sure your indoor air quality is healthy is more important than ever. You can purify smoky air using a smart air purifier with a HEPA filter, like Coway Airmega, which can eliminate smoke and related particulate matter using activated carbon.