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Outdoor smoke contains very small particles and gases, including carbon monoxide. These particles can get into your eyes and lungs where they can cause health problems. Main sources of outdoor smoke in Washington:
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Inhaling smoke is not good for anyone, even healthy people. People most likely to have health problems from breathing smoke include:
Contact your health care provider if you have heart or lung problems when around smoke. Dial 911 for emergency assistance if symptoms are serious.
If you cannot leave the smoky area or find other ways to reduce your exposure, certain types of face masks can provide some protection. Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 filter out fine particles but not hazardous gases (such as carbon monoxide). These masks can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies. Face masks will not work for everyone.
Some room air cleaners can reduce indoor air pollution if they have the proper filter. The most effective air cleaners have a HEPA filter which removes the fine particulates from smoke. HEPA filters with charcoal will remove or reduce chemicals in the air, but not carbon monoxide. Air filtration units should be located in the room where you spend most of your time.
For more information, see California's air cleaning devices for the home (PDF).
Avoid outdoor exercise when air quality is in the “Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy, or Hazardous” categories. If you are sensitive to smoke, you should limit your outdoor activities when air quality is in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category. People with asthma and lung and heart conditions may be very sensitive to poor air quality and may start to have symptoms when air quality is in the “Moderate” category.
Check outdoor air quality to see the category for your area on the Washington Air Quality Advisory Map.
Avoid driving, when possible. If you must drive, keep the windows and vents closed. Most vehicles can re-circulate the inside air which will help keep particle levels lower.