Like much of the western U.S., our region has seen an increase in the number of unhealthy air quality days caused by wildfire smoke. During four of the last five years, smoke from wildfires resulted in 44 days of unhealthy air in the Spokane County metro area.
# of days smoke from wildfires failed to meet federal, health-based air quality standards
Wildfire smoke contains harmful compounds and fine particles. When inhaled, microscopic smoke particles bypass the body's natural defense system and travel deep into the lungs.
Often the wildfire smoke that affects our local air quality is from fires hundreds or thousands of miles from a fire. While we can't predict what the smoke impacts will be this summer, we can be prepared. Below are some recommendations and on the left are links to additional resources.
- Start preparing now. Don’t wait until the smoke arrives. Early preparation can help mitigate impacts on your home and community.
- While inhaling smoke isn't good for anyone, some people are especially sensitive and more likely to experience health problems related to wildfire smoke. These people should consult with their healthcare team to create a plan prior to wildfire season:
- Infants and children under 18. Their lungs and airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
- Pregnant women. Both the mother and fetus are at increased risk of health effects.
- People who smoke because they are more likely to already have lower lung function and lung diseases.People with existing health conditions such as the following are also also more likely to experience health effects:
- Lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including bronchitis and emphysema.
- Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, colds or flu.
- Existing heart or circulatory problems, such as dysrhythmias, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease and angina.
- Prior history of heart attack or stroke.
- Diabetes because they are more likely to have an undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.
- Check SpokaneCleanAir.org for current air quality information which is updated hourly. Another great resource for statewide air quality and wildfire updates is the Washington Smoke blog https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/During periods of poor air quality, know when to limit or avoid your time outdoors.
- Check on your neighbors. If you have filtration/air conditioning at home, share your space with those in need.
- Know how to set the air conditioner in your home and in your vehicles to “recirculate” to avoid outdoor air intake.
- Check your vehicle(s) air filter and make sure it is HEPA equivalent.
- Create a cleaner-air room in your home using a HEPA filter and change the filter more often when it’s smoky. Some room air cleaners can help reduce particulate levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home. For a lower-cost option, there is a DIY video on how to make a box fan filter for under $50. While it won't be as effective as the HEPA air cleaner, it will reduce particle pollution in your home. Learn more here.
- If you have children in summer camps or childcare, make sure to ask the organizers about their smoke plan.
- Pets can be affected by wildfire smoke too.
- If you are an employer - Indoor workers: Ensure your facility's HVAC system has upgraded filter efficiency, change filters frequently during smoke events, and consider supplementing with HEPA filters.
Resources: A wide variety of resources are listed in the column on the left. As new materials become available, we will update the list.