N95 respirators could offer robust protection against wildfire smoke, researchers say.
Regulatory masks offer a “promising way” to reduce inhalation of air pollution particles and reduce the risk of negative health effects, according to a study published in August in the journal AGU GeoHealth.
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The authors of the Colorado State University and Colorado School of Public Health study noted that the public health benefits are “heavily” dependent on how often the N95 respirator is used and the number of people.
The team model taken into account the different types of face coverings, their fit, the characteristics of air pollution and the risk of air pollution causing respiratory diseases, according to an accompanying press release.
In addition, it took into account the percentage of people likely to wear masks and the regularity with which they would be worn.
The researchers performed laboratory experiments to reach their conclusions, examining the ability of different face masks and respirators to filter out particles of different sizes found in smoke and air pollution by placing the mask material on a hose that “breathes” air and particles inside a plastic box.
In the 2012 Washington state fire season case study, the group estimated that the use of N95 respirators could reduce respiratory hospitalizations caused by smoke from wildfires by 22% to 39%. . N95 reduced a person’s exposure by a factor of 16.
Alternatively, cloth masks offered only limited protection against air pollution, and synthetic and cotton masks only reduced exposure by a factor of 2.2. and 1.4, respectively.
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While surgical masks filter over 90% of particles, previous research has shown that masks let about half of the air escape around the mask, which makes them as effective as the synthetic and cotton options.
Surgical masks and synthetic masks are said to have reduced hospital visits due to smoke from wildfires by around 17% and 13%, respectively, and cotton masks were only measured at 6%.
N95s also performed better against larger dust particles and urban air pollution, according to the authors.
The study noted the impact of climate change on the forest fire season in the country. Scientists say climate change will continue to make forest fires more frequent and intense.
In recent years, smoke from the fire – also known as PM 2.5 – has filled the east coast skies, degrading air quality and irritating the lungs, causing inflammation, impairing function. immune system and increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Exposure to smoke is linked to long and short term health problems, including decreased lung function, weakened immune systems, higher rates of influenza, and even hospitalizations and deaths.
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According to the CDC, people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, pregnant women, and children are particularly at risk, as symptoms may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks, itchy eyes, throat irritation, runny nose, sore sinuses, headache, fatigue, chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
At-risk groups are advised to avoid outdoor activities to reduce exposure, wear N95s, keep doors and windows closed, and use an air filter to clean indoor air.