Department of Environmental Quality offers tips for dealing with smoky air

SALT LAKE CITY — Smoke from Utah’s wildfires has led to moderate air quality in some of Utah’s most populous counties, and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality is offering information to mitigate the effects of smoky air on your health.

According to the DEQ, the microscopic particles in wildfire smoke pose significant health risks, especially in children, the elderly and people with existing heart and lung conditions.

This article on DEQ’s website lists the following health effects of particulate matter:

  • Lung irritation, coughing, or shortness of breath
  • Worsening asthma symptoms and increased attacks
  • Increased susceptibility to respiratory infections
  • Nonfatal heart attacks and arrhythmias
  • Reduction in lung function
  • Premature death in people with lung or heart disease

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you and your family can reduce your amount of exposure to harmful particles in the air. The DEQ suggests following these tips:

  • Avoid Outdoor Activity – Avoid strenuous outdoor activities such as running, cycling or hiking during episodes of heavy smoke.
  • Close Doors and Windows – Close your doors and windows. Avoid letting the smoke into your home. Run your air conditioner, but keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean. Central air conditioning is preferred to swamp coolers.
  • Don’t Rely on Dust Masks – Paper masks from hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, like dust. These won’t protect your lungs from the small particles found in smoke. Look for respirators marked NIOSH  with N95 P100. Respirators can stress your lungs, so check with a doctor before using one regularly.
  • Keep Indoor Air Clean – Reduce activities that increase indoor air pollution. Do not vacuum – it stirs up dust in your home. Do not smoke (or vape) tobacco in your home. Do not burn candles or fireplaces. Limit the use of gas stoves.
  • Recirculate the Air in Your Car – Use the “recirculating air” setting in your car. Change the air cabin filter in your car.

Visit the DEQ’s Air Quality website for more information on Utah’s air quality, including air quality forecasts.