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Because you asked: Are masks effective during wildfires?

Ashland this morning with wildfire smoke obscuring the view of Grizzly Peak.
We know a number of you have questions about masks and whether they provide good protection when air quality worsens.

First, let’s stress that the most effective ways people can protect themselves is to limit exposure. More on that in a bit.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering a mask:

Surgical masks and bandanas don’t filter fine particles. N95 respirators are not reliable unless they are fit-tested by a certified professional to ensure they are effective. Otherwise, their use might just create a false sense of security. If you want to use an N95 masks, you need to get fit testing done, so that you can be sure it’s protecting you.

  • Formal fit-testing and training in proper use of respirators aren’t generally available to the public.
  • Lack of such training can lead users to wear respirators incorrectly, resulting in ongoing exposure.
Here are some ways to limit exposure to wildfire smoke:

  • Stay indoors whenever possible with the windows and doors shut.
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as smoke from tobacco, wood-burning stoves and burning candles.
  • Use a high-efficiency (HEPA) or electrostatic precipitating (ESP) air-cleaning filter, if available.
  • Avoid vacuuming, which can stir up dust.
  • When driving is necessary, drive with windows closed and air conditioning set to recirculate.