According to Casey Neistat, New York City has the worst air quality on the planet. From my perspective in California, I’ve seen much worse from the annual wildfires. Or when Pacific Gas & Electric tries to burn down the state.
Wildfire smoke from Canada is blowing down into New York City and the East Coast. Many people there haven’t experienced that kind of air quality since the 1960s. One way to protect yourself while outside is to wear a face mask.
Wear A Face Mask
A dry or damp cloth across your mouth and nose, a medical mask or a dust mask will reduce the amount of smoke you breath in. Those type of face masks won’t block smoke for extended periods of time. You will need a face mask with a built-in respirator rated N95 or P100.
For the built-in respirator to be effective, the face mask needs to be snug tight against your skin. If you have a beard like I do, the face mask won’t work unless you shave off your whiskers. A properly fitted face mask will also reduce the amount of oxygen that you can breathe in.
If you’re in a high-risk group for heart or lung disease, an N95 face mask can reduced oxygen levels. That is more dangerous than inhaling smoke.
If you have been wearing face masks for COVID-19, wearing a face mask to avoid wildfire smoke should be a breeze. Pun intended.
Buying Face Masks
If you don’t have any N95 face masks on hand, be careful where you buy them. During the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California, face masks sold out across the state. Many people and stores jacked up the price on the few face masks that were still available.
- Uber drivers in San Francisco were selling 3M N95 face masks for $5 each.
- The 7-11 down the street from my home sold a ten-pack of dust masks for $1.99 each.
- Street vendors were selling face masks in the parking lots at many stores.
A 20-count package of 3M N95 face masks cost $13.15 on Amazon (as of 6/8/2023). That’s a better deal than the ten-pack of 3M N95 face masks that I got in 2018.
If you want to freak out your friends and neighbors, get a full-face gas mask. During the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, I saw people shopping at the grocery stores in full-face gas masks. A bit of an overkill.
Experts recommend staying indoors to avoid inhaling smoke from outside. Staying indoors means that you are trapped with the air pollution already inside. You will need an air purifier to clean up the air. Or wear a face mask indoors.