Amid Utah’s smoke-filled skies, here are tips to protect your health

Utah Air Quality

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As out-of-state wildfire smoke moves into Utah and creates smoky skies, health officials are warning residents to take precautions.

Early Friday afternoon, Salt Lake City had the worst air quality in the world, according to IQAir. Since then, Salt Lake City has remained among the top cities for worst air quality.

Salt Lake County Health Department’s air quality experts are warning that even if you are not in immediate proximity to a fire, smoke can impact your health, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

Smoke can enter your home through open doors and windows, of course, but also through your HVAC system, cracks, or other small openings.

SLCo Health is offering eight tips based on EPA guidelines that can effectively improve indoor air quality in your home and protect your health when outdoor air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke.

  1. Keep windows and doors closed: If you do not have air conditioning, the EPA recommends using fans instead of opening your windows to stay cool, or seek relief from the heat at a Salt Lake County Cool Zone.
  2. Limit use of a swamp cooler: Evaporative coolers bring air from outside to help cool the home; during a heat emergency, consider visiting a Cool Zone instead of using a swamp cooler, or limit its use as much as possible.
  3. Close the fresh air intake vent on window AC units: If your AC unit has a setting to recirculate air, use that option instead of outside “fresh” air. This also applies to central air systems: if there is a fresh air circulation option, try to turn this off temporarily.
  4. Avoid adding to the poor air quality by burning: Adding to the smoke by burning or cooking outside is ill-advised during wildfire events. Things like recreational fires or smoker grills can make the air worse for you and your neighbors.
  5. Consider buying an indoor air purifier: The EPA recommends using indoor air purifiers on the highest possible setting during fires. If you have a central air system with filtration, run the system’s fan on the highest possible setting; this moves the air particles around that have settled and helps get them out.
  6. Postpone house cleaning: Vacuuming can temporarily make your indoor air quality worse, by kicking up dust and small particles—unless your vacuum has HEPA filtration. So, consider postponing your house cleaning until the wildfire smoke passes.
  7. Avoid being too active: If there’s ever an excuse not to work-out strenuously—especially outdoors—it’s during a smoke event. Cardiovascular exercise increases the amount of air you take into your lungs, so consider having a rest day during significant wildfires.
  8. Use N95 masks: If air quality is visibly poor, use an N95 or KN95 mask when outdoors; with cases again surging, you’ll also help protect yourself from public COVID transmission.

Salt Lake County Health says reducing your overall exposure to smoke during wildfires is the best thing you can do to protect your lung health.

The Utah Division of Air Quality calls conditions a “red day,” with air quality so potentially harmful, it has been categorized as “unhealthy.” Summer days in Utah are often labeled as “orange,” having air quality “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” but Friday’s situation is considered to be unhealthy for all, according to officials.

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