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Frequent Questions

How can I reduce exposure to wildfire smoke?

  • For people in a safe location, away from the fire, reducing physical activity is an effective strategy to lower the dose of inhaled air pollutants and reduce health risks during a smoke event. During exercise, people can increase their air intake as much as 10 to 20 times over their resting level. Increased breathing rates bring more pollution deep into the lungs.
  • Staying inside in a safe place with the doors and windows closed can usually reduce exposure to air pollution by at least a third or more. 
  • If you have a central air conditioning system in your home, set it to re-circulate or close outdoor air intakes to avoid drawing in smoky outdoor air. Consider upgrading your filter to a HEPA filter with the highest MERV rating suitable to your system. Refer to user manual. 
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution: smoking cigarettes, using gas, propane and wood-burning stoves and furnaces, spraying aerosol products, frying or broiling meat, burning candles and incense, and vacuuming can all increase particle levels in a home and should be avoided when wildfire smoke is present.
  • People who wish to clean their residences after wildfire smoke events should use cleaning practices that reduce re-suspension of particles that have settled, including damp mopping, damp dusting and using a high efficiency particulate air [HEPA] filter-equipped vacuum.
  • Portable air cleaners using High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and ElectroStatic Precipitators (ESPs) can help reduce indoor particle levels, provided the specific air cleaner is properly matched to the size of the indoor environment in which it is placed, and doors and windows are kept shut. Check to make sure the device does not produce ozone; those devices may increase indoor air pollution.  California Air Resources Board maintains a list of portable air cleaners that are certified by the State to not emit excess ozone. The California Air Resources Board also provides guidance on selecting an air cleaner at: https://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/aircleaners/certified.htm.
  • Some communities have designated clean air shelters where people can go for respite from smoky conditions. This is particularly important for people without air conditioning on hot smoky days, when staying indoors with windows closed can be hazardous. Places to consider going include public libraries, hospitals, movie theaters, and other public buildings with good HVAC systems.
  • Individuals who are particularly sensitive to smoke should consider temporarily evacuating an area with unhealthy levels of air pollution until air quality conditions improve. 
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