Western Wildfires Threaten Air Quality Throughout United States

Environment |

Western Wildfires Threaten Air Quality Throughout United States

4 minute read

On the heels of the American Lung Association’s (ALA) 21st annual State of the Air report, California is experiencing a rash of wildfires that threaten air quality, homes, land, and the health of its residents. The 2020 report pointed to wildfires as one of the biggest threats to healthy, clean air.

“This shows growing evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health. All three years ranked among the five hottest years in history, increasing high ozone days and widespread wildfires, putting millions more people at risk and adding challenges to the work cities are doing across the nation to clean up…Overall, cities in the western United States dominate the list, with 15 cities among the 26 most polluted (total) annual particle. California continues to claim more places on the list than any other state, with six of the 10 most polluted, including each of the worst five – and six of the nine cities that fail to achieve the national standard” – ALA, 2020 State of the Air Report

Increasing Western Wildfires Are Result of Climate Crisis

Dry conditions, due to rising temperatures, increase the possibility of wildfires due to a tossed cigarette, campfire, debris burning, or lightning strike destroying America’s prettiest state and national sites.

Recent wildfires have led to the closure of 200 parks in the Bay Area and 29 state parks.

Many residents of northern California are seeking refuge from the ash and smog that has overtaken their palatial outdoor setting. Unfortunately, wildfires have become commonplace for these residents. In 2018, California saw the worst wildfire outbreak in its history. The fires burned 2 million acres, destroyed more than 20,000 buildings, and caused around $3.5B in damages. In 2019, 7,860 fires burned just over 259,000 acres. This year, more than 7,000 fires have already torn through 1.6 million acres of land, is on pace to eclipse the 2018 outbreak.

Finding respite from the smog-induced air can be troublesome. Residents are forced to close their windows, which is for some, their only source of fresh air ventilation. Cracks in a home’s foundation can also be a source for air pollutants to seep into a home. Without proper care, these pollutants can cause major health issues.

Westerm Wildfires Threaten Air Quality; Pollutants Travel Thousand of Miles Away

The EPA estimates that air pollution can have adverse health effects leading to a shortened lifespan. The World Health Organization has cited air pollution as a leading global health crisis.

Protecting yourself from these large airborne particulates is important in helping reduce the impacts of air pollution, especially PM2.5. This references fine airborne particulates that are at a maximum of 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller. For example, pet dander is about the size of these airborne irritants that can have severe impacts on human health. Wildfires have shown to increase the amount of these types of particulates in the air. Once they get into the air, they can interact with gases in the atmosphere and create ozone.

This data is especially vital and underpins an already severe airborne virus, which increasingly affects those who have underlying health conditions and face more significant health risks.

Protect Your Home’s Air

Protecting your home and health from these contaminants can be aided with the installation of a whole-home air purifier. An air purifier filters out airborne contaminants that flow through your home’s HVAC system. Capturing these particulates can reduce the risk of indoor air pollution.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, a system designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), rates air filters. The higher the MERV rating the better the filter is at capturing particles. A MERV 11 air filter captures up to 80 percent of these particles, while a MERV 13 filter captures up 90 percent, and a MERV 16 filter captures up to 99 percent.

As mentioned before, air pollution from wildfires is not limited to California. As temperatures continue to rise throughout the country due to climate change, California and its bordering states may not be the only ones susceptible to the air pollution caused by wildfires.

Interactive Map Displays Air Quality and Wildfires

This interactive map from AirNow, a collaboration between the EPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service, NASA, Centers for Disease Control, and tribal, state, and local air quality agencies determine air quality in your area and throughout the country. It also determines if any wildfires are currently active in your area.

These types of resources are important to help communicate air quality to vulnerable populations so they can avoid any detrimental effects from poor air quality.

Mechanical ventilation is a solution to help bring in fresh, clean air into the home. Mechanical ventilation helps filter out airborne contaminants from the outdoor air. Our air filtration and ventilation systems can be combined to help remove these particulates more efficiently.

Stay Current on Air Pollution

As the American Lung Association stated in its most recent report, wildfires are a major threat to clean air. For the second time in three years, California is on pace to break its worst wildfire outbreak in history. We must confront the challenges of climate change with sound solutions and positive reformations. One of those solutions is ensuring that the air inside our homes is fresh and clean.

For more information on wildfires, air quality, and air pollution, go to the AirNow website.