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How you can protect your community from wildfire smoke


How you can protect your community from wildfire smoke

May 21, 2024 | 5:30 am ET
By Austin Fisher
You can protect your community from wildfire smoke
Smoke from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon wildfire blocks the sun with help from the clouds on June 13, 2022. (Photo by Bright Quashie for Source NM)

Visits to hospital emergency rooms for asthma-related emergencies increased by 52% during the 2022 Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire compared to the same time frame in 2021, state health officials said Monday.

The New Mexico Department of Health reported the significant increase in the health risk from wildfire smoke in a Monday news release, which also contains helpful information about how to determine local air quality and how to reduce the amount of wildfire smoke inside one’s home.

To find any information about cleaning the air with a filter or protecting your lungs with a respirator, the two cheapest and simplest ways to protect yourself from wildfire smoke, one must click through the news release to find a fact sheet or go searching on the agency’s website.

We read to the bottom and navigated the site to find the cheapest way to safely protect yourself when wildfire smoke billows over and into your home.

To start, anyone can find a guide on how to build a do-it-yourself air purifier costing less than $100 here.

Part of why that information spread in DIY networks was because local groups, not state officials, were distributing the resources to the community when the state’s largest wildfire spread smoke in nearby places in 2022.

N95 masks, or their equivalents, that are well-fitting and made with high-quality materials offer the best protection against both viral aerosols and wildfire smoke, according to federal health and environment officials.

In 2022, Alex Huffman, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Denver, talked about how to reduce harm from smoke inhalation.

Just like the air purifier information, access to quick and inexpensive N95 masks requires community. People like Mask Bloc ABQ continue the fight to keep masking in health care settings. The mutual aid group still helps people find free N95s.

SARS-CoV-2 remains a virus that people can still catch and anyone that has symptoms from prior COVID-19 illness could experience more health stress from wildfire smoke.

Local environmental health officials have warned exposure to particulate matter found in wildfire smoke can make COVID-19 symptoms worse. And COVID-19 can increase health impacts from particulate exposure.

Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of catching COVID-19, studies show. Researchers found even short-term exposure to wildfire smoke particles increased COVID-19 cases and deaths during the 2020 wildfires in three western states.