How to protect yourself from wildfire smoke
Smoke from wildfires in Canada continues to affect Indiana’s air quality. The air was unhealthy for sensitive groups in all regions of the state on Sunday.
Many experts say it's best to stay inside if possible and wear an approved N95 mask if you have to be outside. However, poor air can still seep into homes and businesses.
Sarah Commodore is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Indiana University’s School of Public Health.
“However way you can keep your home closed off to the outside world for now, until the smoke goes down or until the smoke goes away — you want to do that," she said.
That means shutting windows and doors, and not running things like exhaust fans — which can bring in air from outside. Commodore said the same idea can be applied to your car — so you should close windows and recirculate the air.
If you know you have leaky windows or doors, Commodore said you might try using weather stripping or even put plastic sheeting over those windows.
Commodore said you also don’t want to do things that make the indoor air quality worse — like starting up a wood stove or kicking up dust by running your vacuum.
More sensitive groups should take extra precautions. That includes people with heart and lung conditions — like asthma, children, older adults, and people with long COVID.
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including this series on climate change and solutions.
People who work outside are also more likely to get exposed to wildfire smoke. Commodore recommends employers wait until the air quality improves to send workers out or rotating workers so that no one is outside for more than say 15-30 minutes at a time.
"So some people go inside and they have time for their bodies to recover," she said.
Commodore said pets should also have limited time outside when there's smoke and to monitor them if they have to go out.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management said the smoke is expected to clear somewhat in the next few days, though not completely. The air should be in the moderate range — which means only the most sensitive groups should reduce time outside or be less active.
Commodore said the wildfire smoke we’re experiencing is an example of why it’s important to be a good steward of the environment.
“Air is one thing that we all share. Doesn't matter where you live in the world, right? It's a global commons," she said.
Last month, smoke from wildfires in Canada reached as far as Europe.
This story has been updated.