How to Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

By Bryant Rubright

In recent years, there have been massive wildfires on the west coast, from British Columbia, all
the way to California. In areas plagued by wildfire smoke, it only takes a few minutes of
breathing the outdoor air to figure out that the smoke is extremely unhealthy. Fortunately,
there are some protective strategies that mitigate the negative impacts of smoke.
There are two main problems with smoke. One is the toxic gasses, such as carbon monoxide
and formaldehyde, that are released from burning trees. The other is the fine particulate
matter that is released into the air. Trees accumulate heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and
arsenic, and these are also liberated into the air as particulate matter.

The best strategy is to stay indoors as much as possible with high quality HEPA air filters that
can filter out particulate matter and toxic gasses. When outside, respirators should be used.
Paper painter’s masks or surgical masks do not work. A respirator that covers both the nose and
chin with two securing straps, rated N95, N99, or N100 is needed. 1 Respirators that are rated
“P” or “R” are for filtering out oil based particulates and are not needed for wildfire smoke.
Respirators with an “N” rating are enough, and they are cooler and easier to breathe from. 2 The
number refers to the percentage of particulate matter that is filtered, meaning that N100 is
best since it filters out close to 100%. These masks can be purchased at most hardware stores
or online, though it is important to note that they only filter the particulate matter from smoke,
not the toxic gasses. It is advisable to use a new mask every day. Smoke can also be absorbed
through the skin, so it is best to cover skin with as much clothing as possible, and thoroughly
wash clothing that has been outside.

The better solution is to use a respirator as described above that also has an added activated
carbon filter. The addition of the carbon filter also filters out some of the toxic gasses. These
can be purchased on amazon and are inexpensive. Make sure that they are also rated N95 or
higher like this, or this. Be sure to also change the filters when needed.

Even with these protective measures, there is going to be some exposure to smoke. It is
important to support your own detox pathways as well. Extra toxin binders and liver and kidney
support should be used. Herbal formulations such as the Sophia Nutrition AL Detox tincture can
be used to support the lungs. Infrared saunas were used to detox 9/11 firefighters, and are one
of the best tools for detoxing from smoke. Ionic footbaths are another great detox tool as well.
If symptoms persist after the smoke has cleared, it may be advisable to do some more
extensive treatment. A hair heavy metals test provides a good snapshot of recent exposure.
Other testing can also be used to help guide a personalized treatment plan with your
healthcare practitioner.

1 https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/334-353.pdf
2 https://www.envirosafetyproducts.com/resources/dust-masks-whats-the-
difference.html