Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
In recent days, smoke from wildfires in Canada has drifted south to the United States, leading to more than a dozen US states issuing air quality alerts. Canada officially started its wildfire season earlier last month, and there are currently 413 wildfires burning across Canada, 249 of them considered to be out of control. Tribal Nations in the Northeast now face extremely unhealthy air quality conditions due to smoke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines wildfire smoke as a mixture of gases and particles from burning plants, trees, buildings, and other materials. This combination can make anyone ill, but the most susceptible are those with immune disorders, pregnant people, children, and responders. In addition, those with conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease are also at elevated risk of illness. Breathing in smoke can have immediate effects, causing symptoms such as coughing, asthma attacks, wheezing, irritated sinuses, chest pain, and more.
USET TEC recommends that Tribal Nations take precautions to protect against wildfire smoke, particularly those in the Northeast. Affected Tribal Nations may want to consider issuing air quality alerts for their own communities to stress the importance of taking the precautions listed below.
Key Precautions When Smoke is in the Air
- Wear a mask or respirator. An N95, KN95 mask or P100 respirator, if worn correctly, can provide some lung protection from particulates in the air.
- Tribal Nations may want to consider using left-over N95 or KN95 masks from the COVID-19 pandemic for additional protection.
- Stay indoors, if possible, particularly in areas with high air quality index warnings.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible.
- Keep windows shut and run air conditioning, if possible.
- Seek other shelter if air conditioning is not available and it is too hot outside.
- Do not add in any indoor pollution by burning candles, incense, or other smoking products.
- Use an air filtration device, if possible. Filters with particle removers are best for those with respiratory conditions, the elderly, and children.
- Monitor air quality conditions using weather apps, weather websites, and/or listen to alerts through weather radio stations.
- AirNow has an up-to-date interactive fire and smoke map.
- Air Quality Index is an easy guide for knowing pollution levels in the air.
For additional information or for clinical guidance, please see the sources below. USET TEC does not know the full scope of this issue and will update our Tribal Nations as more information becomes available. Please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Air Quality Index Guide
AirNow Interactive Fire and Smoke App
CDC Wildfire Smoke
CDC Smoke and COVID-19
EPA Wildfires and Smoke
Wildfire Guide Factsheets
CDC Wildfire Guidance for Health Officials and Professionals