How to Improve Your Indoor Air During Bushfire Season
Is the smoke from wildfires affecting your community? Last year was one for the records and many parts of Australia remain under threat from bushfires this year too. Air quality can reach hazardous levels in different cities and towns due to bushfire smoke.
Smoke and air pollution causes various health hazards to people. Exposure to smoke leads to coughing and shortness of breath - irritating the eyes, nose, and throat. Other health problems from bushfires include burns, heat stress, and dehydration.
“Indoor air quality should be a priority for your home.”
Although wildfire smoke may adversely affect anyone near the affected area, because of their weakened immune systems, it mainly takes its toll on those with pre-existing conditions of asthma, heart disease, and lung disease, as well as the elderly, kids, and pregnant women. With this, let’s look at what can be done to improve the air inside your home from the smoke and other pollutants. These tips can also help protect you and your family.
Close your windows and doors
If local officials advise you to stay indoors, always close your windows and doors. Make them airtight. Fine smoke particles can seep inside homes and can be inhaled. Closed doors should have wet towels to fill gaps under doors. Even if there is no immediate or obvious danger, this is a great idea to get into the habit of doing.
Get an air purifier
Run an air purifier continuously on the highest fan setting if you can. Air purifiers use a system of internal fans to pull the air through a series of filters that remove airborne particles. Those equipped with HEPA filters are much more efficient to clean the air inside your home and eliminate the smoky smells. Run the system’s fan as often as possible to get the most out of the filter.
Use an air conditioner
Obvious but necessary - use air conditioning to stay cool. Your home’s air conditioner will recycle the air inside your home. Any time the air passes through your air conditioning filter, the air is cleaned, and since there’s no dirty air entering your home when you close doors and windows, the air stays clean and safe.
If you have an HVAC system with a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper. This feature allows air from outside to reach the air conditioning system, and when there are bushfires, any outdoor air can bring in hazardous smoke and harmful contaminants you want to keep out.
Give your house a good clean. Put on rubber gloves, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Place any ash you do collect into a plastic bag, so it doesn't blow away. Throw away your food that was not in airtight containers. Cooking utensils can be washed with hot water and detergent soap.
You will want to inspect your makeup and medicine cabinet after the bushfire. Throw out anything that has signs of soot, smoke discolouration or fire extinguisher dust. Dangerous chemicals can be ingested or be absorbed through your skin if you keep things that have been contaminated.
Wash affected clothing as you usually do - rinse clothes with clean water, and dry well. Clothes left outside on clotheslines should be rewashed because some smoke odour, soot, particles and ash are stuck on them. Rewashing protects sensitive skin (especially babies) from possible irritants.
If you choose to vacuum dusty surfaces, use a high-efficiency particulate air HEPA type vacuum. The Department of Health warns that regular vacuum cleaners will just blow the particles back into the air. Instead, use new models of vacuum to get it done. Robotic vacuum cleaners have HEPA filter systems that will help remove any smoke and soot that's settled on the floor. Robot vacuums will not just clean your floors but will also help you clean your furniture, and its air filter system will give you good indoor air quality safety for you and your family.
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