The Effects of Smoke Inhalation

As the fires ravage California, hiking and outdoor activities have proven difficult with the smoked-filled air. Hiking in places such as Spring Lake and Doyle Park has shown how the smoke adds a level of difficulty when it comes to venturing into the great outdoors. Trenton Cooper commented, “I have no words for what I am witnessing; the sky is orange.” Smoke cast out the sunlight, and small remnants of ash stick to your clothing and breathing introduces new challenges as well.

Article & Photo By: Trenton Cooper

California has thrown a new curve ball to the ongoing pandemic. Thick toxic smoke has coated a vast majority of the United States, reaching as far as the east coast. Much of the smoke is from burning wood, similar to the smoke that would be produced by a controlled campfire. 

However, since the smoke is so thick, and so many trees are being burned, the approximation for how toxic the air is, is about around 800 cigarettes. Ccair.org, declared that the wood smoke produces unhealthy pollutants, one being PM2.5. This pollution is a coagulation of tiny particles, similar to ash, that have the ability to lodge themselves in the lungs. Once in the lungs, they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Although, not all of the smoke in the sky is produced from wildfires. As fires eat away at houses and businesses, many substances such as plastic, asbestos, drywall, and mercury from light bulbs are released into the air. The effects of the substances being burned, and released into the air can prove dangerous or even fatal to infants and the elderly. Exposure to the smoke has been linked to an exponential growth in lung cancer cases.

There are steps that can be taken in order to decrease exposure to smoke. The most common method to keep yourself safe from secondhand smoke is to remain indoors, a common practice that has found its way to every American household. However, if you do need to make a run to the store, or venture outside, it is highly recommended that you use a mask to keep out small particles.

It has also been found that masks that help slow the spread of COVID-19, don’t necessarily protect you against smoke from the fires because of the different types of bacteria. So, make sure to check that your mask can fight off both viruses and smoke. Finally, the cdc.gov recommends that checking local air quality reports aids in the fight to protect ourselves against smoke. 

While having smoke in the air has become a common occurrence during the dreaded “fire-season,” it is still important that people protect themselves from the toxicity of the smoke in the air until it has been deemed safe.

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