While it can be easy to view extreme weather events as only impacting the outdoor space, this is far from the truth. When natural disasters hit, they affect our indoor air quality (IAQ) and can increase the risk of health conditions. In fact, in 2020, “36 counties in Washington, Oregon, and California experienced very unhealthy air quality ratings due to particulate matter from wildfire season,” according to NPR’s analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
Think of it this way: Wildfires not only produce smoke outdoors, but they are made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. PM2.5, otherwise known as fine particulate matter, can make its way inside your home if you don’t have proper air filters to recirculate the air or air cleaners to reduce indoor air particle levels. On the other end of the spectrum, moisture from hurricanes can seep into your walls and carpets. Aside from damaging homes, mold spores pose health risks, including stuffy nose or dry/itchy eyes. Unfortunately, for those with asthma, there may be more intense reactions, such as shortness of breath and chest tightness.
To get ahead of hurricane and wildfire seasons, you can take specific actions to protect the breathing quality for you and your family. Check out these recommendations to keep your home pollution-free, even if you’re not physically located in an immediate evacuation zone.
- Track Air Quality Reports - Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow database. You can see the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for your city and receive alerts for “Action Days” when pollution poses a significant hazard.
- Keep Indoor Air Clean - To safeguard health, it can be best to recirculate indoor air rather than taking in outdoor air during severe weather events. Fine dust can enter your living space through open windows and ventilation systems.
- Designate a Clean Room - Carve out a healthy air zone within your home that’s generally removed from the main kitchen and living area. If you can, set up a fan and an air purifier to disperse CO2 and filter pollutants away from you.
- Swap Out Your Filters - Change from a low-efficiency filter to one with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of at least 13 to reduce fine dust particles in your home by up to 95 percent. If you have central air in your home, this is an easy way to improve IAQ and move towards using a high-efficiency filter.
- Monitor Indoor Air Quality - Feel safe at home with Awair Element. This solution alerts you when air readings become unhealthy so you can mitigate the issue. Whether you’re close to a hurricane or wildfire source, you need a reliable way to ensure your filters and cleaners are performing well and promoting cleaner air for all.