Efforts to stop California wildfire smoke damage may not be working

It is winter in California when wildfires burn dry land – this means foggy, smoky days on the horizon.

Public Health Officers Now Give Warning Warnings Close closed windows and exterior doors and run air purifiers to inhale small particles that can build up in your lungs and cause long-term damage.

But this advice may not be widely implemented, according to a new study by Stanford University researchers on Thursday on human behavior. And the difference between rich and poor is significant.

Using information from personal pollution sensors, cell phones, social media posts, and Internet search activities during a wildfire, Researchers from wealthy neighborhoods flood the Internet for information on air quality and health care during a wildfire. Based on the information gathered on the activity of the smartphone, many choose to stay home.

Google Trends’ data on specific search queries in different regions shows that people living in low-income neighborhoods also need information about air quality. But they leave information about health care and spend a lot of time at home.

Researchers have also found that household pollution is unhealthy during all wildfires. Researchers analyzed data from about 1,500 indoor purple congestion monitors across the country on an hourly basis and compared it with nearby Purple air conditioners to estimate the amount of smoke in each home. When co-authored, Sam Heft-Nell, co-author of the study, said: “They are doing a very poor job of protecting their home environment.”

As wildfires increase, Heft-Nell’s first response from public health officials was to tell communities to stay home and protect themselves – “Stay inside, put on a mask,” he said. (High-quality masks like N95s can filter out very small objects.)

However, these policies have unequal impact on income levels. The study found that wealthy families are more likely to stay indoors during smoke days and are more likely to search for information about preventive technology, such as home pollution control or air purification.

Low-income communities and people of color in the Bay Area are already suffering from malnutrition. A study released in May found that color communities are 55% more vulnerable to nitrogen dioxide – a key component of smoke – than most white communities.

In many parts of the Gulf, homeless air conditioning is a dangerous smoky day. Historically, air conditioning was not necessary, but the temperature was rising and there were large fires during the hottest days of the month. According to Heft-Nell, many residents may be forced to choose between opening windows and doors to keep the house cool or shutting off smoke.

“It’s a defeat that we don’t often get along with other forms of pollution,” he said.

Information and awareness are not enough to limit exposure to wildfires, Heft-Nell said. In the short term, government responses should help people cope. Possible policies may include enforcing regulations designed to prevent people from working outdoors when the weather is dangerous. Providing air purifiers to residents will have an immediate effect on indoor air quality, although this is expensive.

Over the years, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has been working to expand its mobile air filtration units to low-income residents with low-risk asthma in several Gulf districts. Some experts recommend the DYI version if traditional cleaning is not worth it.

“If we ask people to protect themselves from wildfires, we need to do more to help people protect themselves,” Heft-Nell said.

Emma Tali is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: emma.talley@sfchronicle.com Twitter @ EmmaT332

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