Dangerous Air Quality in California

Several years ago my mom sent me four giant boxes of N95 respirator masks. This was during the “swine flu” pandemic in 2009. I never wore them (but don’t tell her). Frankly, I thought I would look silly and believed any benefit was minor. Finally, after sitting in the far corner of a cabinet for years, there is a better use for them. Health officials are advising N95 respirator masks be worn in areas affected by the horrific fire outbreak this week.

Hospitals in Southern California have reported an uptick in patients with breathing problems, and are advising that people limit time spent outside, keep windows closed, and use air conditioners inside.

Santa Rosa, where devastating fires broke out in October, had the same air quality issues and recommendations:

The blazes create smoke waves — pulses of pollution containing everything from charred plastic residue to soot to other small particles that lodge deep in the lungs. They can trigger short-term ailments, such as coughing; worsen chronic diseases, such as asthma; and lead to long-term damage, including cancer.

The effect of the fires in Northern California’s wine country, which destroyed thousands of homes and killed 43 people, went well beyond the burn zone. The smoke choked the San Francisco Bay Area, home to 7 million people in nine counties, for days…

Even for healthy people, it can make breathing a miserable, chest-heaving experience. For the elderly, the young and the frail, the pollution can be disabling or deadly.

Health officials have advised that people in fire areas take precaution, even when smoke and ash can’t be seen or smelled.

Have You Gotten Your n95 Respirator Masks Yet?

From CNN:

An advisory panel is recommending a major step up in protection for health workers dealing with patients suspected or confirmed to have H1N1 influenza.

The Institute of Medicine said Thursday, in recommendations requested by the CDC, said loose paper masks are inadequate because the workers could still breathe in the virus.

Instead, health workers should switch to N95 respirators that form an airtight seal around the nose and mouth.

If properly fitted and worn correctly, N95 respirators filter out at least 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 micrometers, which is smaller than influenza viruses, the report notes.

However, it is important to remember that “there is a lot we still don’t know about these viruses, and it would be a mistake for anyone to rely on respirators alone as some sort of magic shield.”

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