Forest Fire Smoke is Not Just Unpleasant, it Has Serious Health Impacts: “Stanford researchers discuss wildfires’ health impacts”
I was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in early September 2020. I've paid special attention to keeping away from smoke, which kept me housebound for nearly two weeks, with 4 HEPA filters keeping the interior air clear. The last thing I needed was another hit to my immune system.
I’ve long advised using an N100 particulate respirator for dust and smoke, starting back in 2017 (P100 and N95 are also good), but for exercise and comfort, stick with those having exhale valves*. Problem is, N100/N95/P100 masks are unobtanium and we are down to 4 or 5 of them for the whole family at this point.
N100 vs P100 vs N95
An N100 particulate respirator filters out 20 times as much as an N95 (99.75% filtration vs 95%). If you’re dealing with heavy smoke, an N95 is way better than what most people wear, but it lets in a LOT of nasty stuff vs an N100. A P100 particulate respirator is the same as an N100 for particles, except that it also deals with airborne oils (think poison oak, solvents, etc).
* N95/N100/P100 masks are deemed unacceptable by experts (liars if not outright idiots), vs a bandana or massively leak surgical mask: these f*cking morons (experts) allow massively leaky facial coverings at my local health care facility, but not a valved mask which leaks far less air (I verified this myself) and protects the wearer. The contemptible and malicious idea that protecting yourself is off limits versus a leaky surgical mask or hyper leaky bandana is beyond stupid—it is feckless and reckless. If we had all had N95 valved masks, this pandemic would have been stopped cold within weeks of its start. If you still don’t want that valve, use cloth or a cotton pad inside the mask to block the valving.
The cloak of wildfire smoke that has descended across huge swaths of Northern California is a visible reminder of air pollution’s health threats. For people at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, the bad air presents a new challenge. For firefighters and others exposed to large amounts of smoke, the long-term effects are uncertain.
...People who are over 65 years of age have a higher chance of heart attacks and strokes even after two to three days of bad air quality due to wildfire smoke.
The smoke from wildfires goes through the lungs and the airways and can be absorbed into the blood. There are over 400 toxins associated with wildfire smoke, which have a multitude of bad effects on the body. In the blood, these toxins can activate the immune system and platelets and the lining of blood vessels. When this happens, the inflammation can induce clots which lodge in the heart or the brain vessels and cause heart attacks or strokes, respectively. Asthma can get worse with wildfire smoke because the smoke gets into the lungs and causes irritation and muscle spasms, which lead to wheezing and difficulty breathing.
...air pollution causes immune changes, and increased levels of long-term exposure to small particulates called PM2.5 is associated with decreased life expectancy. Given that wildfire smoke is 80 percent PM2.5, we expect acute immune dysregulation. Our own research has shown increases in inflammatory markers in teenagers exposed to wildfire smoke. Less is known about long-term impacts of wildfire smoke exposure on health, which is why our work with retired firefighters is so important. Given that areas of elevated air pollution are associated with increased COVID-19 rates, exposure probably renders the body less able to fight off viral infections, such as COVID-19.
Cloth masks offer very limited protection but are better than nothing. One study used the smoke from a candle to measure filtration and found that cloth masks were about 50 percent effective in filtering very small particles. However, the best solution is to stay indoors if you can. Otherwise, standard N95 masks are in limited supply for health care workers, but an N95 mask with an exhalation valve could be used. These help protect you from the particulate matter in wildfire smoke, but can’t be used in the health care setting because the valve could potentially allow the transmission of virus.
WIND: all masks need to be properly fitted (sealed), which rules out beards and facial hair.
A lack of sealing is why so many “approved” masks are bullshit—failing to protect the wearer from dust or smoke or COVID-19 other than minimally. Filtering half is better than nothing but filtering 95% (N95) is 10X better than half and 99.75% (N100/P100) is 200X better.