British Columbia

B.C. Wildfires: 3 tips for keeping your home smoke-free

With air quality advisories still in effect across B.C., an air quality expert shares his advice for improving air quality in your home.

It’s not just those with respiratory conditions who are at risk from smoke-filled air

The harbour is barely visible through the amber soup that covered Vancouver Sunday. (Lyssia Baldini/CBC)

As smoke blankets B.C.'s South Coast, concerns for those who have difficulty breathing remains high.

"People with underlying cardiovascular disease may want to modify their behaviour. The very young and older adults, diabetics, and pregnant women are all what we would consider to be vulnerable groups during these smoke events," said Ryan Allen, associate professor of Environmental Health at Simon Fraser University.

Allen shared his advice with the Early Edition's Rick Cluff to ensure the best air quality in homes under the current smoky conditions.

1. Use portable air filters

Allen says there are two primary considerations when looking into buying a filtration system.

"I recommend getting an air filter that meets HEPA designation (High-efficiency particulate arrestance). In order to be called a HEPA filter, the unit has to achieve a certain high level of filtration."

It's also important to consider the size of the unit.

"The larger the volume of air in the home, the bigger the device needs to be in order to draw an appropriate amount of air through the filter."

2. Fans keep you cool but don't help with smoke

Fans won't remove smoke from your home, Allen said.

"Fans just move the air around, but aren't pulling the pollution out of the air. During smoke events the pollutant that we're worried about are these very small particles in the air."

Only use fans if your windows and doors are shut, he said.

3. Wear the right mask with a proper fit

In Beijing - where some regions of B.C. have drawn air quality comparisons - masks are commonly worn to limit inhaling smoke particles. Allen says the effectiveness of that method largely depends on the type of mask used, and the proper fit.

"Masks are tricky. What you want is what's called an N-95 mask. Surgical masks that you see people wearing do nothing really to protect from air pollution."

He adds that the trick with masks is getting the right fit for an individual's face. The proper seal can be quite difficult to achieve, especially for children and people with facial hair.



To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Improving air quality in your home.

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