Forest Fire Smoke is Filling the Air in Billings. Is it Harmful?
Wildfires are raging across much of the West. That's not unusual, it happens every summer, but the severity this early in the season is concerning. Many cite climate change for an above-average hot and dry summer, while others say the fires are a prime example of poor forest management policies. Regardless, the smoke is filling our skies in Montana and will likely continue to do so for the remainder of the summer.
It can't be good for you, right?
The CDC says that wildfire smoke, a mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, can harm you in multiple ways and even make you sick. Some of the immediate effects of inhaling too much smoke may include:
- Trouble breathing normally
- Stinging eyes
- A scratchy throat
- Runny nose
- Irritated sinuses
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- An asthma attack
- Fast heartbeat
If you're wondering how bad the smoke is in our area, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has a real-time chart that monitors air pollutants and particle part-per-million in cities across the state, including the monitor in Lockwood. They grade the air quality on a six-level scale from "Good" to "Hazardous." As of today (7/16) we're still at the "moderate" level, code Yellow.
Is the smoke bothering you much? I find myself waking up in the morning lately "all jammed up" (like after sitting by a campfire all night) and I've been sneezing more than normal.
The CDC says that the paper masks everyone has laying around from COVID are not effective filters for wildfire smoke. They add that a properly fitted N95 mask may provide some smoke protection.