As heavy smoke from wildfires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario made its way to Toronto in early June, it blanketed the city and a ‘campfire’ smell filled the air. Air quality reached as high as level 7 on Environment Canada’s air quality health index (AQHI), which is considered hazardous. At one point, Toronto’s air quality registered as the second worst in the world.
With fires continuing to rage and the country only at the start of wildfire season, we should expect our air quality to be further impacted, with times of reprieve. Given this, here’s how you can protect yourself from potentially dangerous levels of air pollution.
1. Stay indoors when the AQHI is 7 or greater. Same goes for pets, whenever possible.
3. If you have a ventilation system with a fresh air intake, set it to recirculate the air in your home.
4. Particle pollution can get indoors. Consider upgrading your HVAC filter to one with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of 13 or higher. This indicates it can remove up to 95% of the particles that pass through it.
5. If you don’t have an HVAC system, you may want to purchase a portable air cleaner. Be sure that it doesn’t create ozone. This is the main component that makes smog. Run the portable air cleaner as often as possible on the highest fan speed.
6. Wear a face mask when outdoors to reduce inhalation of smoke particulate. The face mask should be an N95 or have the words NIOSH or P100 printed on it.
7. On hot days, refrain from using a window air conditioner, as it draws air from outdoors. Also, make sure the seal between the air conditioner and the window is as tight as possible.
8. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter. This will only stir up particles already inside your home.