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"Clean Air Rooms" can offer protection from smoky air

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Posted at 3:07 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 18:07:20-04

Smoke from current wildfires is spreading across county and state lines.

Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and Public Health Department recommend creating clean indoor air through "Clean Air Rooms" to avoid the harmful effects of smoke.

Why smoky air is dangerous

Smoke and ash from wildfires contain particulate matter, very small particles that can harm the lungs and heart. Breathing in the particles can cause coughing, wheezing, chest pain and more severe symptoms.

Some groups, including people with heart or lung disease, seniors, kids and pregnant women are especially sensitive to smoke in the air.

"Clean Air Rooms"

The county APCD and Public Health Department say that the best protection against smoky air quality is to stay indoors as much as possible.

They offer these tips for making a "Clean Air Room:"

  • Choose a room where you spend a lot of time, like a bedroom.
  • Choose a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) purifier to limit particulate matter indoors by 90 percent.
  • Make sure you choose a safe device and choose the right size option for your room.
  • Check your windows and doors to ensure the room is sealed well so smoke will not get pulled inside.
  • Replace the filter to keep the purifier effective. Filters need to be replaced more often if they are used during a wildfire.

County officials also shared a DIY alternative to a HEPA air purifier that reduces harmful particulate matter and can be a more affordable option.

  • Use tape to attach a 20 by 20 inch MERV-rated air filter to the back of a 20 by 20 inch box fan.
  • Use a filter with a MERV rating of 13.
  • Check the filter to ensure air flows in the right direction.
  • Check your windows and doors to ensure the room is sealed well so smoke will not get pulled inside and replace the filter as needed.
  • Use a box fan that is from 2012 or newer.
  • Don't leave the fan unattended, and turn it off while sleeping.
  • Use fan as an air cleaner, not for cooling.

Minimize indoor pollution

Beyond using an air purifier, county officials recommend the following:

  • Keeping windows and doors shut and sealed.
  • If facing high temperatures and smoke with no way to cool the house, consider waiting out the bad air quality elsewhere.
  • Speak with an HVAC professional to see if you can upgrade your HVAC system filter to a MERV filter with a rating of at least 13.

They also recommended avoiding smoking or burning firewood, candles or incense at home. They say to use your kitchen vent while cooking, and consider professionally checking your home for air leaks.

You can check here for the latest Santa Barbara County air quality updates, and check here for San Luis Obispo County's air quality maps.