Due to the recent fires and high winds in California, air quality has been poor in many areas and is a concern for some local educational agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently revised their Wildfire Guide for Public Health Officials that contains strategies for reducing exposure to wildfire smoke, which is especially important for people who primarily work in outside positions such as groundskeepers, maintenance workers, or even delivery or warehouse workers who move frequently in and out of buildings. The guide also recommends protective measures for children and at-risk groups.
In addition, the guide provides appropriate air cleaners and reducers of indoor air pollution. The guide advises use of N95 disposable particulate respirators in adults, as respirators are not made to fit children and will not protect them from breathing wildfire smoke. Children are especially at risk from exposure to wildfire smoke because their lungs are still developing. The guide advises reducing children’s exposure to wildfire smoke by checking air quality, keeping them indoors, creating a clean air room, and being ready to evacuate if necessary.
The AirNow website reports air quality using the Air Quality Index (AQI) for reporting and forecasting daily air quality. The Air Quality and Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools table, found here, was developed by the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and shows when and how to modify outdoor physical activity based on the AQI. To access the full guide by the EPA, click here.