Breaking News
May 3, 2019 - Vaping and Smoking May Signal Greater Motivation to Quit
May 3, 2019 - Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics
May 3, 2019 - Short-Staffed Nursing Homes See Drop In Medicare Ratings
May 3, 2019 - Study of teens with eating disorders explores how substance users differ from non-substance users
May 3, 2019 - Scientists develop new video game that may help in the study of Alzheimer’s
May 3, 2019 - Arc Bio introduces Galileo Pathogen Solution product line at ASM Clinical Virology Symposium
May 3, 2019 - Cornell University study uncovers relationship between starch digestion gene and gut bacteria
May 3, 2019 - How to Safely Use Glucose Meters and Test Strips for Diabetes
May 3, 2019 - Anti-inflammatory drugs ineffective for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
May 3, 2019 - Study tracks Pennsylvania’s oil and gas waste-disposal practices
May 3, 2019 - Creating a better radiation diagnostic test for astronauts
May 3, 2019 - Vegans are often deficient in these four nutrients
May 3, 2019 - PPDC announces seed grants to develop medical devices for children
May 3, 2019 - Study maps out the frequency and impact of water polo head injuries
May 3, 2019 - Research on Reddit identifies risks associated with unproven treatments for opioid addiction
May 3, 2019 - Good smells may help ease tobacco cravings
May 3, 2019 - Medical financial hardship found to be very common among people in the United States
May 3, 2019 - Researchers develop multimodal system for personalized post-stroke rehabilitation
May 3, 2019 - Study shows significant mortality benefit with CABG over percutaneous coronary intervention
May 3, 2019 - Will gene-editing of human embryos ever be justifiable?
May 3, 2019 - FDA Approves Dengvaxia (dengue vaccine) for the Prevention of Dengue Disease in Endemic Regions
May 3, 2019 - Why Tonsillitis Keeps Coming Back
May 3, 2019 - Fighting the opioid epidemic with data
May 3, 2019 - Maggot sausages may soon be a reality
May 3, 2019 - Deletion of ATDC gene prevents development of pancreatic cancer in mice
May 2, 2019 - Targeted Therapy Promising for Rare Hematologic Cancer
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease is a ‘double-prion disorder,’ study shows
May 2, 2019 - Reservoir bugs: How one bacterial menace makes its home in the human stomach
May 2, 2019 - Clinical, Admin Staff From Cardiology Get Sneak Peek at Epic
May 2, 2019 - Depression increases hospital use and mortality in children
May 2, 2019 - Vicon and NOC support CURE International to create first gait lab in Ethiopia
May 2, 2019 - Researchers use 3D printer to make paper organs
May 2, 2019 - Viral infection in utero associated with behavioral abnormalities in offspring
May 2, 2019 - U.S. Teen Opioid Deaths Soaring
May 2, 2019 - Opioid distribution data should be public
May 2, 2019 - In the Spotlight: “I’m learning every single day”
May 2, 2019 - 2019 Schaefer Scholars Announced
May 2, 2019 - Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Bye-Bye, ACA, And Hello ‘Medicare-For-All’?
May 2, 2019 - Study describes new viral molecular evasion mechanism used by cytomegalovirus
May 2, 2019 - SLU study suggests a more equitable way for Medicare reimbursement
May 2, 2019 - Scientists discover first gene involved in lower urinary tract obstruction
May 2, 2019 - Researchers identify 34 genes associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer
May 2, 2019 - Many low-income infants receive formula in the first few days of life, finds study
May 2, 2019 - Global study finds high success rate for hip and knee replacements
May 2, 2019 - Taking depression seriously: What is it?
May 2, 2019 - With Head Injuries Mounting, Will Cities Put Their Feet Down On E-Scooters?
May 2, 2019 - Scientists develop small fluorophores for tracking metabolites in living cells
May 2, 2019 - Study casts new light into how mothers’ and babies’ genes influence birth weight
May 2, 2019 - Researchers uncover new brain mechanisms regulating body weight
May 2, 2019 - Organ-on-chip systems offered to Asia-Pacific regions by Sydney’s AXT
May 2, 2019 - Adoption of new rules drops readmission penalties against safety net hospitals
May 2, 2019 - Kids and teens who consume zero-calorie sweetened beverages do not save calories
May 2, 2019 - Improved procedure for cancer-related erectile dysfunction
May 2, 2019 - Hormone may improve social behavior in autism
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by infectious proteins called prions
May 2, 2019 - Even Doctors Can’t Navigate Our ‘Broken Health Care System’
May 2, 2019 - Study looks at the impact on criminal persistence of head injuries
May 2, 2019 - Honey ‘as high in sugars as table sugar’
May 2, 2019 - Innovations to U.S. food system could help consumers in choosing healthy foods
May 2, 2019 - FDA Approves Mavyret (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir) as First Treatment for All Genotypes of Hepatitis C in Pediatric Patients
May 2, 2019 - Women underreport prevalence and intensity of their own snoring
May 2, 2019 - Concussion summit focuses on science behind brain injury
May 2, 2019 - Booker’s Argument For Environmental Justice Stays Within The Lines
May 2, 2019 - Cornell research explains increased metastatic cancer risk in diabetics
May 2, 2019 - Mount Sinai study provides fresh insights into cellular pathways that cause cancer
May 2, 2019 - Researchers to study link between prenatal pesticide exposures and childhood ADHD
May 2, 2019 - CoGEN Congress 2019: Speakers’ overviews
May 2, 2019 - A new strategy for managing diabetic macular edema in people with good vision
May 2, 2019 - Sagent Pharmaceuticals Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Ketorolac Tromethamine Injection, USP, 60mg/2mL (30mg per mL) Due to Lack of Sterility Assurance
May 2, 2019 - Screen time associated with behavioral problems in preschoolers
May 2, 2019 - Hormone reduces social impairment in kids with autism | News Center
May 2, 2019 - Researchers synthesize peroxidase-mimicking nanozyme with low cost and superior catalytic activity
May 2, 2019 - Study results of a potential drug to treat Type 2 diabetes in children announced
May 2, 2019 - Multigene test helps doctors to make effective treatment decisions for breast cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - UNC School of Medicine initiative providing unique care to dementia patients
May 2, 2019 - Nestlé Health Science and VHP join forces to launch innovative COPES program for cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - Study examines how our brain generates consciousness and loses it during anesthesia
May 2, 2019 - Transition Support Program May Aid Young Adults With Type 1 Diabetes
May 2, 2019 - Study shows how neutrophils exacerbate atherosclerosis by inducing smooth muscle-cell death
May 2, 2019 - Research reveals complexity of how we make decisions
For wildfire safety, only particular masks guard against toxic particulate matter

For wildfire safety, only particular masks guard against toxic particulate matter

Toby Lewsadder stepped outside an Ace Hardware store wearing a simple one-strap dust mask. He knew it wasn’t the right defense against the wildfire smoke lingering in the air, but it was all he could find.

The local hardware stores he checked Tuesday didn’t have the more substantial respirator mask that public health officials recommend to defend against the harmful wildfire smoke that is blanketing communities across the state. One pharmacy he contacted was selling surgical masks for only a quarter.

“No one has them,” said Lewsadder, 41, who was visiting the state capital from Los Angeles for an IT conference. So, for now, the dust mask would have to do: “Something is better than nothing,” he said.

Unfortunately, Lewsadder is wrong.

The type of mask you wear matters very much if you don’t want to inhale harmful pollutants, experts say.

And as deadly fires burn in Northern and Southern California, destroying communities and lives, millions of people outside the burn zones are exposed to the dangerous smoke that’s billowing into their communities and settling like dark shrouds.

Wildfire smoke is dangerous because it contains fine particulates that can lodge deep into the lungs, which can cause or worsen respiratory issues, such as asthma. Some groups are especially vulnerable, including children and older people.

The particulate matter floating across much of Northern California in the past week has registered more than 18 times the recommended levels by the World Health Organization. Such levels can trigger acute symptoms like difficulty breathing and headaches — even in otherwise healthy people.

Health experts agree that the best defense is to stay indoors.

But many also suggest that if you must go outside for a prolonged period, it’s best to wear the right kind of mask — especially if you have a health condition such as asthma, heart problems or emphysema.

Health professionals and firefighters are fitted for the right mask, but the general public is not.

So what kind of mask is the best?

Not the dust mask that Lewsadder was wearing. Or the surgical masks that loop around your ears. Forget wearing a bandana or holding a tissue over your mouth — those won’t protect your lungs.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of Public Health recommend “N95” respirators or “P100” masks, both of which are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for health care workers and firefighters.

Those simple-but-sophisticated masks are intended to block at least 95 percent of the hazardous and tiny particulate matter — known as PM2.5 — that spews from wildfire smoke. At 2.5 microns or less in diameter, the particles of PM2.5 can’t even be seen by the naked eye, said Dr. John Balmes, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California-Berkeley. (For comparison, a human hair can measure as little as 16 microns in diameter.)

Once you find the right kind of mask, it’s also important to wear it correctly:

The mask should have two straps. One strap should be placed below the ears and one above. And the mask should seal tightly to your face.

“The efficiency of the mask is all about how well it fits the contours of your face,” said Keith Bein, an associate professional researcher with the Air Quality Research Center at the University of California-Davis. “If there’s a gap, air will come through the gap.”

But if you have difficulty breathing or become dizzy, remove the mask.

When a disposable mask gets dirty inside or you have trouble breathing, throw it out.

To the worry of some parents, the N95 masks aren’t small enough for most children. Balmes, a medical doctor, said he tells his colleagues that they can put adult masks on their children, but he can’t promise they will work.

In Sacramento, since the Camp Fire devastated the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Paradise about 90 miles north, the typically blue skies appear overcast. In reality, it’s a smoky haze that has settled over the trees and buildings, leaving an acrid taste in people’s mouths and irritating their eyes.

Air-quality levels in the region have been in the “unhealthy,” “very unhealthy” or “hazardous” ranges for much of the week.

Area residents have received mixed messages about whether to wear masks. Sacramento County’s public health division issued a statement saying that only those people living near the fire should wear masks because they restrict airflow and can make it more difficult to breathe. Meanwhile, the city of Sacramento is distributing free masks to the public at fire stations.

“There is confusion, and I think one of the problems is there is not enough evidence-based medicine on whether healthy individuals should be putting on these masks and when it’s effective,” said Mary Prunicki, a medical researcher and instructor at Stanford University’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research. “That’s something we’re actually trying to investigate.”

Despite the mixed messages and poor air quality, many people in the state capital appear to be going about their business as usual. Leland Gilmore, 77, who was walking his dog, Ruff, in McKinley Park near downtown, didn’t think the smoke “was bad enough” to stay inside. Neither did the people shooting hoops, playing tennis and jogging at the same park.

“I’m concerned, yes, but I’m not taking any special measures,” said Gail Peoples, 61, on her late-morning walk with her two dogs. “This time of day seems OK.”

However, Peoples said she is worried about older family members, like her mother-in-law who has pulmonary issues and hasn’t left the house for a week.

Peoples knows there’s a special mask but doesn’t know what she should look for.

When Sisco Martinez, who doesn’t suffer from any asthma or respiratory issues, felt some chest pain, he visited a Sacramento fire station for a mask.

“I work indoors, but still, I wasn’t feeling too well, so I thought I’d better go get one,” said Martinez, 19.

Experts acknowledge that the masks don’t block all the toxins in the air — the chemical gases, for example, released into the atmosphere when fire engulfs neighborhoods and the construction materials, cars, paint and other consumer goods that people use every day.

“The masks are only removing particulate matter,” Bein said. “It doesn’t remove the toxic gases.”

Still, Bein said, the proper masks are “still working better than nothing.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles