Wildfire smoke. What EXACTLY does it do to the human body?

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First let’s take a look at what it is. Primarily smoke is made up of Particulate Matter (PM). That’s microscopic particles of 2.5 micrometers or less. To get some perspective, a human hair is 70 micrometers across. Add to that, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, irritant volatile organic compounds (VOC’s for short) gases and water vapor.

So what does it do to the body? When smoke enters the lungs, the body’s natural defense is to release chemicals called cytokines. These chemicals cause inflammation all over the body, leading to multiple side effects. Exposure to smoke causes coughing, eye irritation, headaches, irritation of the nasal passage, sinuses, throat and bronchial airways. And that’s just in healthy people. Anyone with ongoing respiratory problems such as COPD or asthma will notice their symptoms are far worse. And it doesn’t stop there. Smoke exposure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolism and narrowing of the arteries.

There is no doubt that the health risks associated with smoke exposure are serious. But the situation may be even more alarming than we realize. Most of what we know about smoke exposure is based on fires that occurred in isolated areas. But in recent years, the very nature of forest fires has changed. More destructive and deadly than before, fires now burn right next to urban areas. Often houses and all their contents are destroyed. Not only does this increase smoke exposure as people are in close proximity to the fires. But as houses burn, so do chemicals, furnishings, fuel, metals and paint. Resulting in smoke that is far more toxic than before. Perhaps exposure to smoke from these new super fires is more of a threat than we know.

Have you been affected by smoke from the recent forest fires? Are you concerned about chemicals, gases and VOC’s hanging around in your home? We recommend the Austin Air HealthMate Plus™. With its broad spectrum adsorption, it effectively removes many of the air borne contaminants associated with smoke from forest fires. Visit our shop page HERE for more info.