How to reduce harm from wildfire smoke

How to reduce harm from wildfire smoke

What to do for Canadians who have been given the most extensive lesson in Health and Life Safety by nature.

Forest fires continue to rage in Canada. They are now all over Quebec and the smoke is billowing into Ontario. The cities of Cobourg and Kingston are the hardest hit, followed by Toronto. Smoke is also reaching Ottawa, albeit to a lesser extent. Meteorologists are predicting the situation will get worse today.

This is not the first huge wildfire in Canadian history, nor is it the only case of smoke in the atmosphere. Scientists and firefighters plan to cope with this disaster as well: people are already being evacuated from dangerous areas, fires are being extinguished, and damaged houses will be rebuilt in the future. The challenge for Canadians now is to do what they can to help firefighters and those affected, and to take care of their own health. If your city is engulfed in smoke, try to reduce the damage from it. Read our article on how to do this.

What are the dangers of smoke?

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Smoke in Ontario is not fatal, but it can make your health worse. You can die from smoke asphyxiation if you are near a fire, not tens or hundreds of kilometers away. Nevertheless, you need to remain cautious. Smoke contains toxic impurities, heavy metals, and potential allergens. Typical effects of inhaling it include drying of mucous membranes, lacrimation, sore throat, nose and eyes, coughing and wheezing, fever, drowsiness, head and heart pain. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses are especially reluctant to come in contact with dirty air.

How to protect yourself and your loved ones?

The main recommendation of doctors and firefighters is to leave the house as little as possible and close the windows and vents. Turn on the air conditioner and use filters to purify the air. There are already tutorials on social networks and YouTube on how to make them yourself. If you do not have enough money to buy such a filter, make one — it's pretty cheap to do. Do wet cleaning more often, at least once a day.

If you need to leave the house, wear special masks or half-masks with filters. Note that not all masks will protect you from smoke and smog. The disposable products we wore during the pandemic won't help. Before buying a mask or respirator, read the manufacturer's information: it tells you what the product can handle and how often the filter needs to be changed. If you have to work outdoors, it makes sense to invest in a good mask, because your health is at stake. Find out if your employer provides masks.

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