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How to make sure the air you’re breathing is healthy amid wildfire season

How to make sure the air you’re breathing is healthy amid wildfire season
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 5:31 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As wildfires spark and winds pick up across Tucson, leaders advise checking the quality of air where you live to ensure it’s safe to go outside.

Natalie Shepp, the senior program manager of outreach and education at the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, said there are a few tools you can use now to make sure you’re staying safe as we head into the most active fire weather months.

“It really depends which way the wind is blowing, so we need to be monitoring that and we can do that through various websites,” Shepp said. “I would highly recommend people familiarizing themselves with airnow.gov. The website has all of the air quality information and the data we collect from our monitors that mostly focus on particulate matter, especially fine particulate matter which we call PM2.5.”

Shepp said fine particulate matter is what can get deep into our lungs and cause health problems.

“If they can get deep into your lungs, they can also get into your bloodstream, which can then exacerbate heart problems,” Shepp said. “When we have excessive levels of PM2.5 in the air, we want to avoid it as much as possible.”

When monitors show dangerous levels of air you should:

  • Keep your windows shut
  • Turn on your air-conditioning to filter the air in your home
  • Avoid swamp coolers that take unhealthy air from outside and bring it inside your home
  • Buy a secondary air filter to run inside your home

Shepp said you can buy an air filter from PurpleAir that connects to your phone. It will alert you when air quality is unhealthy and it shows a map of smoke in your surrounding area.

Shepp suggests looking at the MRV rating of filters. She said that’s what filters out those small particles that get deep into your lungs.

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