How Dangerous is the Wildfire Smoke?
It feels like forever since we have seen blue skies or a normal looking sun. With wildfires raging across BC, thick smoke has covered the province and has reached all the way to parts of Manitoba.
With air quality advisories reaching dangerous levels many are wondering how what that danger actually means to them, how to protect themselves, and when will the smoke and haziness end. All of us here at T&P Trucking also wanted to know so we did some research and this is what we found.
Air Quality Danger
It’s hard to tell from one day to the next whether the smoke haziness is better or worse than the day before. The best tool we have discovered to correctly determine the current air quality condition is found on the BC government website. It looks something like this:
Obviously we all know a red 10 is worse than a yellow 5, but if you’re still wondering what each number means to your health, the following is a helpful chart that breaks down each category of the Air Quality Health Index scale. It also provides the health risk associated with the air pollution we breathe.
Using these charts will help you to determine the health risks in the area you work or live. If you live in an area that falls into the 7-10+ category, do you know how to protect yourself? If you are unsure, don’t worry. We didn’t know either, which is why we continued in our research and found some helpful advice we want to share with you.
Protection from Danger
You may have already seen people wearing surgical masks as they carry out their regular outdoor activities. While their intention may be good, you cannot just throw a bandana or any old dollar store mask on your face and assume it will protect you.
For one thing, any mask you wear should be the correct size and properly fitted to your face. Also, keep in mind that some surgical masks are not designed or intended to protect you against smoke. There are microscopic particles in smoke that do most of the damage to your lungs. For this there are special face masks called respirators that will help. These masks are known as N95 respirator masks.
This mask is super popular and can be found in almost hardware store or easily bought from Amazon and delivered straight to your door.
Once you receive your N95 respirator mask, make sure you fit it properly to your face. It may seem like an obvious task, but many people actually fit their masks incorrectly.
Here is a quick video to help you get it right:
If you don’t feel comfortable wearing a mask out in public we don’t blame you. Unfortunately there are not many other mask options if you need to go outside. Remember that it is protecting your lungs, so it’s definitely worth looking a bit strange. Perhaps you can color coordinate the mask with your outfit that day, just like this cool guy:
Try not to worry too much about what you look like, chances are you will still look better than Bane:
Maybe you feel safer just staying inside. However, due to the tiny particulates in the air it is possible for the smoke to easily penetrate indoors. This can be troubling if you have any seniors or small children living in the home. The best thing you can do is invest in a couple of air purifiers with a HEPA filter and limit the time you need to spend outdoors. If you have any chronic underlying medical conditions the general advice is to avoid any type of strenuous activities until the air quality improves.
If you have no choice but to work outside, the recommendation is to wear your N95 respirator, take frequent brakes, and have your brakes indoors in an area where the air isn’t contaminated.
Here is some more helpful advice from Global News:
What Does the Smoke have to do with Trucking?
You may wonder why we are talking about smoke and masks on a trucking website.
Almost all transport truck drivers spend long hours sitting in the cab of their truck. While they may not live in an area that is heavily affected by the smoke, most likely they will be driving through an area that is.
Fortunately every truck has a cabin air and temperature climate control system. However, the air quality in the cabin depends on how the air system will be used, as most vehicles today give the option of either outside or recirculated air.
When set to the ‘outside air’ mode, the climate system will pull in the bad air from outside and pass it through the cabin filter. This filter is designed to clean the air blown out from the cabin air vents and will remove the small particles found in smoke filled air.
The possible danger comes in when the truck driver has chosen the ‘recirculate’ mode as now the cabin air will actually bypass the air filter all together. If the drivers’ route takes him through an area that is covered with dense smoke, this means that for multiple hours of the day he/she will be breathing in polluted air without a mask or any type of filtration system. By not using the ‘outside air’ mode they are essentially trapping the smoke inside the cabin with them to just recirculate over and over.
The team here at T&P Trucking strongly encourages all truck drivers to check their routes ahead of time to confirm whether they will be passing any wildfire areas and what the air quality levels are expected to be in those regions. If it looks like you will be travelling through a heavily polluted area, please remember to keep your cabin climate control on the ‘outside air’ mode.
We also recommend that you keep a N65 rated mask in your cabin in case you run into any roadside breakdowns or hazards that may require you to be outside of your cab for extended periods of time.
The End of Haze?
BC is such a beautiful area and we definitely are missing the view of our beautiful mountains. Hopefully they will be back into full view this weekend.
The forecast for this weekend does show rain, however it is not expected to be a deep soaking rain. This means it may only slightly in prove the air quality. We can also look forward to lower temperatures over the weekend as this should assist with the rain to improve the air quality.