The recent increase in wildfires across the West has impacted air quality and put people’s health at risk from smoke exposure. This exposure can be sudden, last for days or weeks, and affect indoor and outdoor air quality. Smoke can travel great distances and become trapped in areas far from the source of the wildfire by weather patterns.
Smoke is the product of incomplete combustion and produces a complex mixture of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides. Fine particulates–PM2.5–are the primary health concern from short-term smoke exposure because they lodge deeply in the lungs and lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
During the summer wildfire season, Utah residents often wonder how to protect themselves and their families from the negative impacts of smoke. They also want to know if the air is safe to breathe. A number of tools are available to help members of the public track air-quality conditions and reduce their exposure.