While Los Angeles is hardly known for its great air quality – despite real improvement even before COVID slashed pollution, at least for a while – wildfires across the west have made it absolutely terrible lately.
And the thing is, even though conditions will eventually improve, “fire season” is far from over. We have a couple more months before the rainy season begins – and even that may be another underwhelming one if La Niña hangs around and acts as expected. Most likely, we’re going to be dealing with smoke for a good while.
And as a new study reminds, it’s crucial that you do all you can to minimize your exposure to it.
The study, published earlier this summer in Environmental Health Perspectives, evaluated data from five consecutive fire seasons in British Columbia, exploring the relationship between exposure to fine particulate matter from wildfires and acute health outcomes. Its authors found that the effects of smoke were almost immediate.
Specifically, they found that ambulance calls for acute lung and heart conditions went up within an hour of exposure. They also found increased calls over time for people with diabetes.
“We have long known about the harmful health effects of wildfire smoke,” says Jiayun Angela Yao, the study’s lead author who conducted this research while completing her PhD in the UBC School of Population and Public Health. “But it’s alarming to see just how quickly fine particulate matter seems to affect the respiratory and cardiovascular system. And the acute effects for people with diabetes is relatively new to us.”
And it’s not just the dust, organic matter, and such that make up the particulate matter that are of concern. Wildfire smoke also releases plenty of chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins. One study found that fires in general “release about 30 percent as much mercury as the nation’s industrial sources” – about 44 metric tons every year.
Mercury, of course, is extremely neurotoxic – poisonous to the brain.
So any time you’re dealing with smoky air, you want to be sure to take steps to keep your exposure to a minimum. That means staying indoors unless you absolutely must go outside, with windows and doors shut. If you have air conditioning, run it with the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean – and consider upgrading to a HEPA filter with the highest MERV rating for your system. Run good quality HEPA air purifiers in your home.
And don’t even think of doing heavy labor or exercising outside. The exertion only means you’ll be inhaling even more smoke.
Also be aware that the standard cloth or surgical masks most of us are relying on now to slow the spread of COVID are NOT sufficient for blocking fine particulate matter.
There are a number of nutrients that can be extremely helpful during these days of smoky skies, particularly antioxidants such as vitamin C and glutathione to counter the oxidative stress smoke induces. Anti-inflammatory herbs can also be helpful, including turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Other botanicals can be used for respiratory support.
Be sure to drink lots of water and consider using a neti pot or sinus bulb to regularly clear your sinuses. Herbal or homeopathic eye drops or eye washes can be extremely helpful for soothing irritated eyes. There’s no single product we recommend, but a simple online search will yield plenty of options.
While dietary changes and supplements can help, even better is IV drip therapy, which bypasses the gastrointestinal tract completely, sending vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients directly into your body’s cells without ever entering the gut. There is far less nutrient loss.
And with IV chelation, we can help you cleanse your body of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, as well.
Right now, we’re offering a special in our office, where you can get your first appointment with Dr. Joe for free when you buy a 5-session IV drip therapy package – a $500 value! To get started, just give us a call at 310-268-8466. We look forward to speaking with you!