Wildfires and Air Pollution

The last few months and due to the lack of rain and the climate change some places in the world are facing extreme wildfires, most of the times manmade. Places like Galicia-Spain, Portugal and California-USA have been facing a great danger. The wildlife has been left without its habitat and humans without clean air. Unfortunately this kind of distraction creates enormous quantities of air pollution. A lot of times the air pollution spreads downwind from the fire source and even reaches other countries, so-called Cross Border pollution.

What kind of pollutants do the wildfires produce?

Mainly wood smoke contains a mixture of PM2.5, PM10 particles and various gases. More precisely wildfire smoke is a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds VOCs and a wide rage of particulate matter PMs that include ash, black carbon BC and organic carbon, such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons PAHs.

The smoke is a very complicated mixture of pollutants in the air, and it affects human health. It comes from lots of different sources, including trees, decomposed leaves, animals, forest litter and sometimes from local houses. Even the composition of the air pollution is depending on the way the smoke is created, for example by smouldering or flaming.

How to protect yourselves?

If you live close to a forest then ask your local authorities how you can help to protect the Earth’s lungs. If you happen to be near a wildfire/forest fire then remember to wear a N95 or N99 face mask. Don’t expose yourself in the smoke for a long time, even the face masks have a limit. If you live near an ongoing wildfire, close the windows and seal your house from the outdoor air. Stay away from your house for a few days, ask a family member who lives far away from the fire to host you.

Request

I can’t stand reading or watching on TV news regarding wildfires. The damage is huge especially when humans are responsable for them. My heart breaks every time. Please respect the environment. Thank you.

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