The air quality in Seattle is one of the worst in the world. Experts say wearing a certain type of mask, which you may already be wearing to stop COVID, can help.
SEATTLE – As dozens of wildfires continue to burn along the west coast, the cities and towns of the northwestern hinterland are awash with smoke.
The air quality in Seattle is among the worst in the world. According to AirNow.gov, Seattle had an air quality index (AQI) of 241, rated “very unhealthy,” at 5:45 pm. Monday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoke from fires can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, affect the immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-1
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While a mask can help stop the spread of COVID-19, not all of them protect you from smoke from fires.
The face cloth linings and surgical masks used to slow the spread of COVID-19 do not filter smoke particles from the fires, said Dr. Anh Nguyen, senior medical director for urgent care clinics in Providence.
The N95 respiratory mask will filter smoke and slow the spread of COVID-19, but masks are still in high demand and should be saved by doctors and nurses.
“To complicate matters, pollution masks commonly have valves to help let the air out and make breathing easier,” according to Plume Labs scientist Dr. Boris Quennehen. “Unfortunately, the valves make the mask virtually useless for preventing virus transmission – because it’s designed to let the air out, along with whatever else might be in that air.”
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Plume Labs recommends using a valveless FFP2 + mask to meet both needs.
Dr Nguyen added that a good alternative to help alleviate both problems is to wear a cloth mask over the N95 mask with the valve.
N95 respirators are not an option for everyone, however, as they are not recommended for children, they are not as effective with facial hair and those with pre-existing conditions should consult a healthcare professional first, said Lisa Woodward with Spokane Regional Clean. Air Agency.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NIOSH-approved N95 and other respirators are also in short supply due to COVID-19 and must be reserved for those who have to wear them for work.
The CDC recommends staying indoors and using a portable air filter to protect yourself from smoke from fires.
If you have a forced air system in your home, you may need to speak to a qualified heating, ventilation and air conditioning professional about different filters, HEPA or MERV-13 or higher to reduce smoke to the indoor.
The American Lung Association says lung health protection should be part of a fire emergency plan and has these recommendations as well.
- Stay indoors: People living near fire-affected areas should stay indoors, unless urged by local officials to evacuate, and avoid breathing smoke, ash and other pollutants in the area.
- Don’t practice outside: If you live near or nearby, do not exercise outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or notice irritation in your eyes or throat.
- Don’t count on a dust mask: Regular dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, and fabric face covers won’t help. They still allow the passage of the smallest and most dangerous particles. Special and more expensive dust masks with an N-95 or N-100 filter will filter out harmful fine particles, but they may not fit properly and are difficult for people with lung diseases to use. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 masks may not be readily available due to the shortage and because they are needed by frontline healthcare workers. If you have lung disease, consult your doctor before using an N95 mask. These masks can make breathing more difficult for anyone and should only be used if you have to go outside.
- Take precautions for children: Extra precautions should be taken for children, who are more susceptible to smoking. Their lungs are still developing and they breathe more air (and consequently more pollution) for their size than adults. N-95 m = masks should not be used for children as they will likely not fit properly.
- Raise the car windows: When driving your car in smoky areas, keep the windows and vents closed and activate the “recirculation” setting, even when using the air conditioning.
- Protect the air in your home: Stay indoors as much as possible, with doors, windows and fire dampers closed and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and filters. Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting to avoid drawing outside air into the room. Air purifying devices equipped with HEPA filters can provide additional protection from soot and smoke. Place damp towels under doors and in other places where outside air could penetrate.
- Prepare to evacuate if indicated. Listen very carefully to your local or state officials and take action when ordered to protect yourself and your family. Prepare any medications, medical devices, emergency contact information, and a prescription list to take with you in advance.