Possible California wildfire smoke in Puget Sound region starting Thursday

A plume of wildfire smoke from California is expected to pass over the Puget Sound region starting Thursday, Sept. 3, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency says.

At first, most of the smoke will be overhead. It will likely have minimal impacts on ground-level air quality, with moderate air pollution levels at most. If smoke lingers in the region over the weekend, air quality may reach air pollution levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups. The agency said it is monitoring the situation and will provide updates at www.pscleanair.gov.

Wildfire smoke carries the same health risks as wood smoke, except there can be a lot more of it. Both COVID-19 and wildfire smoke affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and increase health risks, especially for sensitive populations.

The agency advises you check with your doctor or medical professional in advance to create a plan for your family before wildfire smoke impacts air quality. When the air looks and smells smoky, it is not be the best time for activities outdoors.

To limit your time outdoors, stock up on necessities like food, medications, and other items you may need for your family. If your air cleaner or HVAC system is designed to accommodate a high-efficiency HEPA filter, installing one and running the system during a smoke event can help keep your indoor air clean.

You can also make a filter fan to help clean your indoor air. All you need is a box fan, furnace filter (MERV-13 or better), and a bungee cord or tape. Step-by-step instructions here.

Designate a room in your home to be a “clean room.” This room should have as few windows or doors as possible, or they should be closed, to keep smoke out. Use a portable air cleaner or filter fan to make the room even cleaner. Find out more here.

If you have an air conditioner, use it in recirculation mode or close the fresh air intake to keep smoky air out of your home.

Masks with the label “N95” or “N100” are the most effective type of mask that protects you from air pollution, but due to ongoing COVID-19 response those are reserved for health care and other frontline workers for now. While cloth face coverings are recommended to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they offer limited protection from air pollution and wildfire smoke and must be properly worn. Any mask or face covering should be used only as a last resort to protect against wildfire smoke.

More information on COVID-19 mask do’s and don’ts can be found here.

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