Each year in Canada we experience roughly 8,000 wildfires annually, which burn a total of 2.5 million hectares per year. Wildfires pose a serious threat to human health and well-being, not only because of the flames themselves encroaching on inhabited areas, but due to the suffocating smoke that emanates from them.
With the ambient air quality adversely affected, finding ways to maintain your health and well-being during wildfire season is important. Find out whether air purifiers can help mitigate the effects of wildfire smoke in this article!
Wildfires are growing in size and frequency due to climate change. The average wildfire season is three and a half months longer than a few decades ago. The snow is melting earlier, and the summers are hotter and drier, making vegetation more susceptible to burning.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the number of large fires that occur annually in the West has tripled in the last few decades, burning twice as many hectares. This trend will continue to worsen as climate change progresses.
Hazardous components of wildfire smoke
Wildfire smoke contains a variety of air pollutants that can have significant health consequences not only for those near the fire but also for people in areas downwind of the blaze. Hazardous pollutants include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and various volatile organic compounds, several known to be carcinogenic.
Particulate matter from smoke is small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and affect the heart and bloodstream. There’s no question that particulate pollution has a negative impact on health, and some high-end air purifiers are designed to trap the vast majority of these particles and improve air quality for this very reason.
Health consequences of wildfire smoke
While some people may be able to withstand a certain amount of wildfire smoke exposure without suffering severe consequences, vulnerable populations may be severely affected. These include seniors, pregnant people, infants, young children, active outdoors people, and those with lung and heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
Breathing in wildfire smoke can cause mild symptoms such as sinus irritation, coughing, headaches and more severe symptoms such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, and death.
The denser the smoke and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk to those affected—but wildfires can affect those living further away. The Canadian government conducted an assessment that found that while the health impacts are most significant in provinces that experience wildfires, the effect is felt across other provinces as well. This indicates that air pollution caused by wildfires travels long distances, and a large number of Canadians are exposed to it.
According to the Government of Canada, air purifiers can help decrease the amount of fine particulate pollution from wildfire smoke in a room. In fact, air purifiers designed specifically for smoke reduction can make a real difference in air quality for those living and working in wildfire-prone areas.
The best air purifiers for wildfire smoke
The most effective air purifiers for wildfire smoke are equipped with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. In order to be HEPA certified, the filters must be able to trap at least 99.97% of 0.3-micron particulate, a size that is particularly difficult to filter mechanically. Since wildfire smoke particles tend to be of a similar size range, they will be trapped just as effectively.
An air purifier reduces three types of contaminants: tobacco smoke, dust, and pollen. Wildfire smoke is most akin to tobacco smoke, so it’s best to look for an air purifier with high tobacco smoke efficiency.
In addition to high-quality HEPA filters that effectively trap particulates, Sanuvox air purifiers are equipped with proprietary UV technology that breaks down the hazardous pollutants contained in wildfire smoke through a process called photo-oxidation. This process reduces the concentration of VOCs in the air as well as the persistent smell of smoke, which might otherwise linger indefinitely.
When outdoor air becomes highly loaded with smoke from wildfires, it is recommended to close all windows and use a suitable air purifier to clean the air you breathe.