Remember the Butterfly Effect? Jeff Goldblum explained it best in Jurassic Park: “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking, and in Central Park, you get rain instead of sunshine.”
Here in the United States, East Coast residents just experienced a painful demonstration of the Butterfly Effect in action. Wildfires thousands of miles away in California and Oregon led to some of the worst air quality Central Park has seen in years.
The historic droughts and high temperatures on the West Coast sparked wildfires that sent smoke all over the country. The unusually intense wildfire season caused smoke, hydrocarbons and other pollutants to travel high into the atmosphere, where they encountered the jet stream. That’s why in late July, an orange-grey haze settled over New York City as the air quality index measure of fine particulate matter reached 170, a level that’s dangerous for everyone.
Like most New Yorkers, I still have a stack of face masks by my front door, which got me wondering, “Will my N95 face masks protect me from air pollution and wildfire smoke? What about my regular cloth face masks?” And, if I’m being honest, “Do I really have to wear masks again?”
Prior to the pandemic, these face masks were used primarily in countries with dangerous levels of air pollution and by workers who are exposed to fine particulates in the workplace. Common sense would dictate that N95 masks will also protect you from wildfire smoke, but I wanted to be sure.
I consulted some experts to answer your questions about face masks, air pollution, and the dangerous wildfire smoke that’s been blanketing the country in recent weeks. I’ve also included links to purchase N95 masks and air purifiers below, but the specific products featured below were not endorsed or recommended by the experts I spoke to.
What Are N95 Masks?
N95 masks (and KN95 masks) are rated to filter out 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size and larger from the air we breathe. Because coronavirus particles are usually attached to water droplets larger than 0.3 microns, these masks are one of the most effective tools in stopping the spread of COVID-19 (along with vaccines, of course). They can also be used to capture pollutants caused by vehicles, industrial processes, wildfires and other sources. Also known as N95 respirators, they are worn around the nose and mouth.
What Are the Dangers of Wildfire Smoke?
Wildfire smoke and other forms of air pollution are associated with an increased risk of asthma, and they’re especially harmful to people who already suffer from respiratory problems — including COVID-19.
In a statement on its website, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that “Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Go to the news source: Will N95 Masks Protect You From Wildfire Smoke and Air Pollution? We Asked the E…