The higher the Air Quality Index (AQI value scaled from 0-500), the greater the level of air pollution and potential issues. This measure of fine particles in the air less than 2.5 micrometers of between 300-500+ is considered hazardous. Adverse effects include aggravation to the heart and lungs among the general public – particularly for sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, those suffering from cardiac or pulmonary diseases and pregnant women.
Avoid exposure to the smoke by staying indoors where possible and not using evaporative airconditioners, which draw air into the house from outside.
If the exterior smoke and air quality is very poor, windows, doors and entry holes need to be shut to prevent smoke entry.
Air purifiers fitted with PM 2.5 particle filtering are designed to capture pollutants and particles but emitting the filtered air. Evaporative coolers can be used if the system is filtered, and air conditioners that have switches to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ can be used to reduce the amount of smoke entering the premises. Air conditioners without switches can run in fan mode instead of cooling and need to have their filters cleaned regularly.
Asthmatics need to avoid dust mites, harsh cleaning chemicals, hairspray, smoke, non-flued gas heaters and wood-burning fires.
Eye conditions such as dry eye, blepharitis or allergic conjunctivitis are exacerbated by the burning and stinging eye pain that smoke, noxious gases, embers can cause but lubricating the eyes with the correct type of eye drops can sometimes be useful. Smoke from vegetation is composed of hundreds of chemicals in gaseous, liquid and solid forms. These include noxious gases (e.g. carbon monoxide), aldehydes, benzene, water vapour and small particles of carbon and other materials (median aerodynamic equivalent diameter of 3.5µm).
Exposure to these substances (especially carbon monoxide and aldehydes) and gases or particles from plastics or rubbers, can cause eye irritation and injury.
Common symptoms following exposure to and contact with smoke include pain, discomfort, redness, and watering of the eyes.
Other possible injuries resulting from exposure to fires and smoke include corneal abrasions, conjunctivitis burns to the eyelids, eyeball, and face.
Be careful to NOT rub your eyes which can worsen the irritation and reduce contact lens wear.
Cooling compresses over your eyes can be soothing as well as trying to maintain a more humid indoor environment. Specialty goggles that are often prescribed to patients with dry eye can be an effective option for people experiencing sensitivity to smoke in the air. And close-fitting glasses or sunglasses will provide at least some barrier to particle pollution.
More specific treatment can result after careful examination.
TYPES OF FIRE GOGGLES
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The human eye is very susceptible to damage and needs the correct protection and comfort, particularly in fire hazards from simple eye drops to specific eyewear and goggles/face shields.
Some goggles are a single piece lens that can be fitted over glasses.
Slimline versions often have a two-piece lens design and are more comfortable when used under helmets.
Some goggles tested to AS1337 can be both stand-alone or attached to an AS1801 Certified bushfire helmet.
TYPES OF RESPIRATORS FOR FIRE FIGHTING
Disposable active carbon respirators reduce smoke & chemicals more than standard disposable respirators.
Types of respirators are also classified by the type of hazard they protect against.
Negative-Pressure Negative-pressure respirators rely on the wearer to pull air in through cartridges or filters.
Filtering Facepiece Disposable respirators, also known as filtering facepieces, are used to help protect against some particulate hazards.
Reusable respirators Reusable types can be used with particulate filters, gas and vapor cartridges or combination cartridges.
Half-face respirators Half face types cover the lower half of the face, including the nose and mouth.
Full-Face respirators Full-face respirators cover the eyes and much of the face, and can sometimes replace the need for safety glasses.
Positive Pressure respirators Positive-pressure respirators do the work of pushing air to the respirator head top or facepiece.
Tight Fit respirators
Loose-fitting respirators typically have a hood or helmet.
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.
DON’T FORGET THE CORRECT EYE DROPS, FILTERS, FIRE SAFETY EYEWEAR, AND ANTIFOG WIPES.
TYPES OF PARTICULATE FILTERS
There are different types of particulate filters and gas and vapour cartridges.
As per AS/NZS 1715, there are 3 different classes of particulate filters, P1, P2, and P3.
The negative pressure particulate categories are based on facepiece coverage. All particulate filtering facepieces that cover the nose and mouth area only can achieve only a P1 or P2 classification. A P3 classification can ONLY be achieved when worn with a full facepiece.
- Class P1 particulate filters are used against mechanically generated particulates e.g. silica and wood dust.
- Class P2 particulate filters are used for protection against mechanically and thermally generated particulates or both
P2 Respiration Mask is intended for use against bushfire smoke, metal fumes, lead, silica & coal dust, asbestos fibre, bacteria, fungi + more. Great to keep at home or in the car in case of a bushfire.
- Class P3 particulate filters are used for protection against highly toxic or highly irritant particulates e.g. beryllium (when worn with a full facepiece). Certain contaminants may have specific respiratory selection criteria..
- Gas and vapour cartridges categories are distinguished by their filter type and class. Some commonly used filter types are:
- Filter type A = Certain organic vapours (boiling point above 65⁰C) from solvents such as those in paints and thinners (cartridge label colour = brown)
- Filter type B = Acid gases such as chlorine, hydrogen sulfide (sulphide) and sulfur dioxide (cartridge label colour = grey)
- Filter type E = Vapours from sulfur dioxide (cartridge colour = yellow)
- Filter type ABE = are suitable for both certain organic vapours/acid gases and sulfur dioxide e.g. solvents, chlorine and sulfur dioxide (cartridge label colour = brown, grey and yellow)
- Filter type K = ammonia gas (cartridge label colour = green)
- Filter type ABEK = are suitable for both certain organic vapours/acid gases, sulfur dioxide and ammonia (cartridge label colour = brown, grey, yellow and green)
ASTHMA AND SMOKE
Air quality is reported by Government Health agencies for PM2.5/PM10 levels.
SMS alerts can be organised eg for asthmatics who can be breathless or wheezy,or have a tight chest or persistent cough exacerbated by smoke.
So as well as using a reliever (for example Ventolin) preventer medication could be used while air quality remained poor.
The anti-inflammatory action of corticosteroids makes them an effective anti-asthma treatment. An example of inhaled corticosteroids is budesonide (e.g. Pulmicort);
Sometimes combined with a long-acting beta2 agonist (to help keep the airways open for up to 12 hours) such as Seretide (fluticasone plus salmeterol);
Drugs that block leukotrienes, which cause narrowing and swelling of the airways can also improve asthma symptoms and can help prevent asthma attacks eg Lukair tablets.
Cromone medicines, such as sodium cromoglycate (e.g. Intal)and nedocromil sodium (e.g. Tilade), are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory asthma medications.