State Public Health Officer Urges Californians to Limit Exposure to Wildfire Smoke
Date: December 12, 2017
Contact: Corey Egel | 916.440.7259 | CDPHpress@cdph.ca.gov
- California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health
Officer Dr. Karen Smith today advised residents where wildfires have been
burning in Southern California, along with people in the smoke’s path, to stay
indoors and reduce outdoor activity.
from wildfires can cause eye and lung irritation. Breathing smoke can also make asthma symptoms
worse. People with underlying lung or
heart problems should limit their exposure by staying indoors,” said Dr. Smith.
“Heavy smoke exposure can also cause more serious disorders, including reduced
lung function and bronchitis.”
People who must be outdoors for long periods, in
areas with heavy smoke, or where ash is disturbed, should wear an N95
respirator mask. Since wearing a respirator can make it harder to breathe,
those with lung or heart problems should ask their doctor before using one. For
more information on the use
of particulate respirators (masks) to protect from wildfire smoke or ash,
please visit CDPH’s website.
it is safe for residents to return home, caution should be used during the
clean-up process. Ash from trees burned in wildfires is relatively nontoxic and
similar to ash that might be found in your fireplace. However, ash from burned
homes and other items will likely contain metals, chemicals, and potentially
asbestos, items that may be considered toxic if breathed in or touched with wet
If ash is inhaled, it can be irritating to the
nose, throat, and lungs. Exposure to airborne ash may trigger asthmatic attacks
in people who already have the respiratory condition. In order to avoid
possible health problems, the following steps are recommended for people in burned
areas with ash:
not allow children to play in ash or be in an area where ash-covered materials
are being disturbed. Wash ash off toys before children play with them. Clean
ash off pets.
a tight-fitting N95 or P100 respirator mask, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and
long pants when cleaning up ash. Avoid skin contact. If you do get ash on your
skin, wash it off immediately. Some wet ash can cause chemical burns.
getting ash into the air as much as possible, for example, by avoiding sweeping
it up dry. Use water and wet cloth or a mop to clean items and surfaces. Do not
use leaf blowers or take other actions that will put ash into the
- Shop vacuums and other common vacuum cleaners do not filter out small
particles. They blow such particles out the exhaust into the air where they can
be inhaled. The use of shop vacuums and other non-HEPA filter vacuums is not
recommended. HEPA filter vacuums could be used, if available.
“Residents should seek medical care if they
experience health issues such as chest pain, chest tightness or shortness of
breath. It is especially important to monitor children and young adults as they
may be more susceptible to the health and emotional effects of fire recovery,” said
website for more information on how you can protect
yourself during a wildfire and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
for more information on the hazardous
debris, wildfire recovery
safety in wildfire regions.