How to Protect Indoor Air Quality During Wildfires

How to Protect Indoor Air Quality During a Wildfire

Smoke particulate under the microscope

Smoke particulate under the microscope.

Each year forest fires and wildfires in the United States, especially in the western regions, have become an increasingly serious issue. Outdoor air quality becomes severely poor from the massive amount of smoke and debris produced by the fires. But did you know it can negatively impact indoor air quality as well? Wildfire smoke can produce a variety of chemicals that are hazardous for health and hygiene. The chemicals released during such events includes but are not limited to carbon monoxide, acrolein, and formaldehyde which can be toxic depending on the exposure dosage and susceptibility of the individual. In general, it has been observed that most deaths attributed to such events are from smoke inhalation. There are steps that can be taken to keep building occupants healthy and safe during wildfire and associated activities. The most important step is to visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms that might be related to smoke inhalation. Individuals with a history of lung and heart problems must be extra careful and avoid exposure to the poor air quality.

Protection of closed environments from the infiltration of smoke and contaminated air is one of the first, most crucial, precautions to undertake. This can be initiated by inspecting the building filtration system and the "tightness" of the building envelope, paying close attention to any openings or leakage. Environmental inspection, diagnosis and proper management of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is essential in order to restrict the circulation of bad air within a closed structure. Testing various indoor contaminants either using simple Do-it-yourself (DIY) test kits or with the help of an indoor air quality professionals are highly encouraged to determine the quality of air within an occupied space. Use of professional grade air purifiers can also be helpful in such events. It might be necessary to evacuate the premises should the indoor quality degrade to poor conditions during the fire event. Upon your return to the building if lingering indoor air quality conditions persist then a remedial plan to minimize the smoke damage will need to be pursued to ensure the building can be safely occupied again.

For more information on EDLab at Pure Air Services, Inc. please contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay, CIAQP, FIAS, at (800) 422-7873 x 304

Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab):

Alan Wozniak founded Pure Air Control Services, Inc. in 1984 as a small, mechanical, contracting firm and has since set the industry standard for indoor environmental quality diagnosis, environmental laboratory and remediation. Pure Air Control Services has serviced more than 600 million square feet of indoor environments in over 10,000 facilities.

The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) (established in 1992) at Pure Air Control Services (PACS) is an environmental lab offering complete and comprehensive indoor environmental microbiology laboratory services. They include: microbiology, aerobiology, chemistry, allergen assays and microscopy designed to meet all your indoor air needs. EDLab supports IAQ investigations by assisting with strategic sampling plan development and supplying media collection equipment while performing a wide range of environmental analyses.

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