There are growing evidence than the traditional public health advice to stay indoors for smoky days is not enough to stay safe. Smoke and its particles enter our homes, schools and office buildings.
And if you’re worried about what that means for where you live, it might depend on when your building was built. It is according to a to study by the University of California, Berkeley, researchers, published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers used crowdsourced data from indoor and outdoor air sensors in California to get a better idea of how residents are protected from hazardous air.
Lead author of the study Allen Goldstein, a professor of environmental engineering and environmental science, policy and management, said he found that newer buildings and those built with central air conditioning were much better at preventing smoke from forest fires.
“Houses that have been built more recently, in particular, tend to be more airtight, they tend to leak less,” he explained. Additionally, he said air-conditioned homes tend to circulate air through a filter.
The study also found that human behavior can play an important role in indoor air quality. For example, when people closed their doors and windows and used some kind of filtration system, the amount of inhalable fine particles (PM 2.5) was halved.
Either way, once the smoke gets inside, Goldstein said it needs to be taken care of. This means either using an air purifier with a real HEPA filter or an air conditioning filter with the good mark.
In a Press release, co-author Joshua Apte said the researchers hope to sample indoor air quality data from a more economically diverse “household set” because existing indoor air data from the crowd tend to come from more affluent households.
“I think these new methods of detecting the indoor environment will allow us to tackle environmental justice issues a lot more and learn more about who can breathe cleaner air indoors,” said Apte. .
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana , KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with the support of affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.