Quebec Wildfires: Clearing Soon, But More Fires to Come

LEWISBURG – Bucknell University Chemistry Professor Doug Collins reports a change in climate will make wildfires worse and more frequent.

Bucknell photo by Emily Paine

According to Professor Collins, particulate matter pollution is already a major global health risk, and research suggests that wildfire smoke is especially bad. Smoke stays suspended in the air, and the longer we are exposed to it, the worse it gets for our health.

“Acute health effects, particularly for those prone to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, are strongly elevated in smoke plumes with concentrations like we saw this week in the Northeast and like we may see later this week,” Collins says.

“But truth be told, epidemiology studies have begun to show — with better, recent data — that there really is no level of particulate matter pollution that is ‘safe.’ Many agencies either have or are considering reducing their limits on particulate matter pollution.”

Particulate matter pollution causes irritation to exposed tissue. Collins points out that because we spend most of our time indoors, our exposure to air pollution of outdoor origin beings there, “Using methods to reduce indoor air pollution will pay dividends for our health,” Collins says.

Professor Collins has some recommendations for improving indoor air quality:

  1. Filter your indoor air using central air systems, use a portable air cleaner
  2. Wear a KN95 or N95 mask if you must be outdoors in the smoke.
  3. Avoid air cleaning technologies that say they are “active cleaning” methods or add ionization or UV lights to filters.
  4. If you have central air, replace your filter and run the fan continuously.
  5. Add an air cleaner if you can.

As Professor Collins recommends, “All you need is four 20-inch furnace filters, a 20-inch box fan, and regular old duct tape, and it runs somewhere around $80 all together.”

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