Wildfire smoke is becoming more and more frequent in Seattle and the surrounding area, affecting air quality.
If you’ve stepped outside and noticed hazy skies and the scent of smoke, it’s probably wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest. Smoke from wildfires in Washington state and even further away can drift into Seattle, affecting the air quality. It’s important to take precautions to protect yourself from poor air quality, so we put together this quick but informative guide.
Read on for all the important information.
Why is there wildfire smoke in Seattle?
Sometimes the smoke comes from wildfires in Washington state, but the wind can carry smoke to us all the way from wildfires in Oregon, California, and British Columbia.
What’s so bad about the smoke?
Wildfire smoke is known to contain toxic chemicals that can damage the lungs and even the heart. Some people are more susceptible to health issues from smoke than others; this includes those with compromised circulatory or respiratory systems, children, and unhoused people who cannot go inside to escape the tainted air.
How do I know if it’s safe to go outside?
There are a few different ways to check the air quality. You can check the state Department of Ecology’s five-day forecast map, the Washington Smoke Blog, and checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) on your phone’s weather app.
What precautions can I take?
Ideally, you should stay inside with the windows closed when wildfire smoke in Seattle is bringing the AQI to unhealthy levels. You can improve the purity of the air inside your home by utilizing an air purifier. Those can be expensive, so a budget-friendly option is attaching a MERV-13 filter (easily found in hardware stores) to a box fan.
If you must go outside when the air quality is poor, it’s best to wear a mask that is able to block smoke particles such as a N95. Cloth masks won’t do much, since smoke particles can pass through them. Remember that wildfire smoke can affect pets as well, so keep your cats inside and make those dog walks brief.