CDC Says Cloth Masks Don’t Offer Protection Against Smoke From Wildfires

Kelsie Sandova | Independent

As wildfires burn throughout the US, people may wonder if cloth masks popularised during the pandemic protect you from inhaling smokeThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no.

Throughout the pandemic, cloth masks were hailed as a critical tool for preventing Covid-19 spread. The fabric blocks respiratory droplets from entering and leaving the masks.

Despite cloth masks’ effectiveness at stemming Covid-19 transmission, it does little to protect against smoke because the small, harmful particles in smoke can pass through the cloth.

Rather than using a cloth mask, the CDC recommends upgrading to a K95 mask, as it protects against smoke and is effective at halting Covid-19 spread. The CDC said N95 masks also offer both benefits but stressed that those masks should only be used by healthcare workers.

How to protect oneself from smoke has become a common question as wildfires continue to burn in California and Oregon, especially as other states are feeling the effects.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality health advisory in the front range region, saying that fine particular matter concentrations are unhealthy for people with heart or lung disease, older and active adults, and children. The alert said people in those groups should avoid exerting themselves outside.

Last month, fires in the west led to unhealthy air in the Midwest and on the East Coast. New York City had an air quality index of around 130 to 160, which is considered unhealthy.

In general, wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs and affect your immune system, according to the CDC.

Because of smoke’s adverse health effects, the CDC recommends going to a clean shelter if you’re region is inundated with smoke. The organization also advises reducing outdoor exercise or opting for lower intensity activities.

If you want to ensure your home has clean air, the CDC says to use a portable air cleaner in one more multiple rooms. Beyond making your home a safe, clean space it’s important to keep an eye on temperature forecasts.

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