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  • Margie Suozzo

Smoke Getting You Down? Tips and Tricks for Cleaner Air.

Fires, fires, everywhere. And lately, they’re hitting closer to home which has made us all more appreciative of clean air. (Learn more about the link between climate change and air quality here). So what do you need to know to keep you and your family safe? Read more here.


The most important aspect of air quality during the pandemic is fine particulate matter, e.g., PM 2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5 microns or smaller). These particles have been associated with increased risk of death from coronavirus (Harvard Univ., April 2020) and can penetrate deep into the lungs and even impact cardiovascular health, so you want to minimize your exposure. The best way to do that is to: (i) know what your air quality is (and it changes frequently these days), (ii) clean it up if it’s not up to snuff, and (iii) know where you can go for better air. Tricky during these times, for sure.


Figure out your air quality

  • CalFire – to learn where the fires are and their level of containment. The PG&E Fire Detection Satellite Map is an excellent map, too, but takes a while to load so only use it if you have patience!

  • AirNow and PurpleAir – to discover air quality in your area. AirNow tends to be more accurate but with fewer local sensors. PurpleAir’s sensors are simpler and more abundant but weren’t really designed to measure particles from wood smoke. However, you can select a correction factor on PurpleAir to more accurately reflect current air quality. (This article explains discrepancies between AirNow and PurpleAir and how to adjust PurpleAir to get a more accurate and more local AQI).

  • If you read that last bit, you’re already a real data geek, so you may want to:

  • Check out Windy to see which way the wind is blowing and help you predict what your air will be like tomorrow; and

  • Measure your own air quality with a portable air quality monitoring device. Some are reviewed here. We use the Temtop M2000C love it!

Clean up your air

And if your power goes out, get out of Dodge (well, not really)

  • But seriously, most newer cars have excellent air filtration. Close the windows and choose “recirculation” on the ventilation system and see and feel the air quality improve. Or better yet, measure it. We’ve seen PM 2.5 go from unhealthy to healthy in no time!

Backup power can help, too, though we haven’t looked deeply enough into this to provide a solid recommendation. If you’ve done the research, let us know your thoughts here

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