Fire Protection Essentials and Respiratory Health, Part 2 — As the Dust Settles

As I wrote in my first blog on Fire Protection, the smoke that we’re experiencing in the Bay area is filled with the combusted contents of homes and businesses- things like plastic siding, wires and pipes, computers, flame retardants, carpeting with stain repellants like Teflon, lead paint from old houses, pressure treated lumber, and the list goes on. Even when the bulk of the particulate is from burning plant matter, there can be a substantial amount of mercury released into the environment from bioaccumulation. It’s easy to go into freak-out mode here.

I can also find the silver lining in the midst of the devastation, which is an opportunity to realign our priorities and get our houses in order on as many levels as we can.   This is an opportunity for a paradigm shift — to make the changes we’ve each been debating for years, whether it means changing an unhealthy lifestyle pattern, assessing our consumption patterns particularly around the use of toxic materials, and helping to address some of the social and economic issues that are now more acute in our county.

How we take care of ourselves and each other now is one of the most determining factors of our overall health in the future.

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Fire Protection Essentials and Respiratory Health

You are probably feeling it- a scratchy throat, dry cough and irritated eyes or that whoozy, nauseous feeling from breathing something you shouldn’t be. It smells like a campfire out there, but with homes and businesses burning, we are exposed to so much more. On top of the wood particulate, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, the air and the ash is littered with synthetic chemicals released from the combustion of building materials and the contents of buildings and yards. We’re dealing with a toxic load of exceptionally nasty stuff like dioxins, heavy metals, styrene, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, acid gases, etc. This is serious business.

The first objective is to limit your exposure as much as possible, by staying indoors and sealing your house. Avoid drawing any air into your house from outside- limit the use of fans or dryers. Put towels around any drafty doorways or windows. Get that air purifier you’ve been contemplating – you need it now. If you must go outside, wear a respirator mask, such as an N95 or P100, preferrably the latter.  Your lungs are better equipped to deal with the air born toxins than your oral mucosa and digestive tract.  So breathe through your nose, not through your mouth, and avoid eating or drinking in any area that has compromised air quality.  After being outside, rinse nasal passages and lubricate afterward with aloe-saline, or coconut or sesame oil.

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