In this blog post Camfil Canada expert Berni Baier weighs in on wildfires in British Columbia, Ontario and the effects of wildfire smoke across Canada.
While wildfires are typical in Canada during summer months, there has been a shift in fire activity – more fires are burning for a much longer fire season. According to research by the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System1 (CWFIS), there were 242 uncontrolled fires and another 61 fires being held at the beginning of August. With priority fires tearing through British Columbia and parts of Ontario and Manitoba, and additional fire restrictions in other provinces due to high fire danger levels, communities across Canada must ask themselves of the health impacts that could be imposed by exposure to smoke particles this wildfire season. Further, Canadians should ask a more critical question: How can we protect ourselves against wildfire smoke?
What Are the Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke and Why Is It Harmful to Canadians?
It is first important to note that even locations thousands of kilometers away from the fire can be seriously affected. This is because the wildfire smoke rises from grasslands and forests, and can then be carried for long distances downwind. Just last month, The Star2 reported that Toronto’s sky turned hazy red due to particulate matter scattering the sunrays – these particles had travelled from wildfires in northwestern Ontario, more than 380 km away. As smoke travels, it can become a major source of air pollution across numerous Canadian regions. FireWork3, Canada’s Wildfire Smoke Prediction System, cites that gaseous pollutants and fine particulate matter contained within the fine smoke can be a grave risk to public health, particularly for seniors, children, and vulnerable people with heart or lung disease.
Wildfire smoke contains several hazardous pollutants, including:
- sulphur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
- carbon monoxide
- volatile organics compounds (VOCs)
- water vapour
- fine particulate matter
The Government of Canada, as well as other global health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), regards PM2.5 as the greatest risk. Once inhaled, smoke can cause mild symptoms such as headaches, a cough, and throat irritation. More serious short-term symptoms can include dizziness, wheezing, and heart palpitations. While the full extent of the damage of long-term exposure to fine particulate matter is still under research, exposure over time can lead to the worsening of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions (such as asthma, COPD, and ischemic heart disease). Particulate matter has been linked to a higher risk of premature death in those affected by such conditions. There are further investigations presently being done regarding the effects of PM1 particles also found in forest fire smoke, which attacks the body at a cellular level and once absorbed can remain indefinitely.
How Can Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke Be Mitigated? 8 Best Tips for Reducing the Impact of Wildfire Smoke on Your Lungs
Air filtration experts suggest that those residing within an affected area should protect themselves by:
- staying indoors with the windows and doors closed.
- reducing time spent outdoors.
- avoiding vigorous outdoor activities.
- visiting places with controlled, properly filtered air supply.
- maintaining an adequate supply of medication for chronic illnesses (this includes inhalers for people with asthma).
- increasing pressurization within the house, if possible.
- maintaining adequate filtered ventilation.
- purchasing high-quality portable air filters that use a combination HEPA/gas removal filter to clean harmful pollutants out of the air.
This final recommendation is particularly emphasized for those with respiratory conditions. If clean indoor air cannot be accessed at home or within the community, self-evacuation is recommended as a final resort.
Improving Poor Indoor Air Quality During Wildfire Season With High Efficiency Air Filtration
To avoid experiencing wildfire smoke inhalation while indoors and subsequently having to take potential evacuation measures, our team of international air filtration experts from Camfil suggest the use of air filters rated MERV 14/14A or higher which are able to trap smaller airborne particulates. Camfil Canada having offices located in these affected regions. Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg offer numerous clean air solutions within these guidelines that effectively combat poor indoor air quality caused by wildfire smoke, such as the Durafil ES2 or the Hi-Flo ES.
For air handling units that lack sufficient space for a MERV 14/14A-rated filter, a long-lasting panel filter such as the 30/30 Dual 9 is advised in order to decrease filter changeout intervals that can increase dramatically due to the amount of contaminant. Should space allow, gas removal filters can also be installed in order to reduce odour infiltration into the building.
Can You Clear Your Home of Wildfire Smoke With An Air Purifier?
As per Berni Baier, the National Marketing/Sales Support Manager for Camfil Canada, “An in-room portable air purifier, such as the City M, is also another option if a building’s current HVAC system does not allow for improved particulate or gas removal, as it operates independently of the air handling units”. The City M contains a combination HEPA/gas removal filter which targets both types of pollution found in wildfire smoke successfully.
What Should You Do To Clear Wildfire Smoke With An Air Cleaner?
- Use a particulate and molecule trapping capabilities (with no leakage around filter)
- Verify HEPA filtration efficiency
- Size unit(s) for a minimum 5-6 air changes per hour
- Low noise levels
- Position unit in room for optimal air circulation
To learn more about the City M Air Purifier see our line of portable air purifiers: https://www.camfil.com/en-ca/products/air-cleaners–air-purifiers/city-range
There are a variety of factors that determine which air filtration solutions will best protect you from the health threats of wildfire smoke. Be sure to contact an experienced commercial building air filtration consultant to find the air filtration solutions that are right for your building.
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,800 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/.
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