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Protect Your Health From Smoke in the Air

Protect Your Health From Smoke in the AirYou might have heard about fires ravaging Northern California.   As our air quality across the whole Bay Area (this is the picture I just took in our backyard on a sunny day) is unhealthy, I wanted to send a few quick tips on how to protect your health.  And if you are not in Northern California, you might benefit from this information, too, because outdoor and indoor air pollution is bad for some people every day.


The EPA monitors air quality and assigns an index number to it. You can access it here. Type your zip code, and you will get your air quality report instantly.


I think it is important to understand that the smoke in the air includes particles and gasses. All smoke contains ash and soot, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Smoke also contains very harmful chemicals such as aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals, and dioxins. Most of them are associated with increased cancer risks.


The Health Department of New York has lots of resources on the health effects of smoke from fires and how to protect yourself.


When you see people walking around in masks, normally those masks protect from particles – not gasses and vapors (source). The masks that protect from particles of smoke are called particulate respirators. The California Department of Public Health put together a flyer on how to wear these masks correctly. You can access it here.


A variety of particulate respirators are sold on Amazon as well.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a lot of helpful information on how to choose and wear a correct mask/respirator.   You can access it here.


Per the California Department of Public Health, choose a mask called a “particulate respirator” that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it.  And make sure they have two straps that go around your head.


Here is a good option that I found on Amazon:


When your air quality reaches “unhealthy” on the index, it is a good idea to stay indoors and run your in-home filtration system. Know that HVAC filters won’t protect you fully because HVAC home filters normally filter out particles, viruses, and mold. They are not as good with gasses.


Mobile air purifiers are good for both. Normally, those filters include two technologies: HEPA and carbon-based technology. HEPA filters protect from particles and carbon filters protect from gasses.  I recommend well-established brands such as Austin Air.  You can buy them on the Pure Living Space website, and get an additional 10% off by clicking on this link, or by providing them with the discount code “ReadLabels10” at checkout.  Know that this is a small business owned by a wife and her husband who provide good customer service, so do not hesitate to ask them questions.


My doctor Myrto Ashe, MD just sent an email with helpful tips on how to protect your health from the smoke with diet and supplements.


This is what she said:


“I would recommend people focus more on diet. Antioxidants are in colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, so now is the best time ever to focus on the “colors of the rainbow”, with something from each category (yellow, orange, red, green and brown/tan) every day. For total amounts, I would say 5-10 cups of produce daily. I would also focus on darker foods, blueberries and blackberries, black rice, purple potatoes, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, and lots of spices, herbs, and green tea.

Of course, there are subtleties here:

wild blueberries are much better – they are small and purple all the way through – perhaps hard to find this time of year

Endangered Species chocolate has more flavanols than Green and Black’s; other brands may also be great, they have not all been tested

You want 4 cups of green tea daily

You may want to consider superfoods like acai, maqui powder, chia seed, mulberries, goji berries, and make some smoothies

In terms of supplements, we know N-acetyl cysteine helps patients with lung disease. Omega 3s, probiotics, and magnesium are anti-inflammatory. I personally will add some Meriva or Longvida curcumin, and some acetyl or liposomal glutathione.” (source)


I buy and take regularly N-acetyl cysteine and magnesium by Pure Encapsulations from Vitacost.  I talked to Vitacost and trust that they store them properly.  I also take this fish oil by Nordic Naturals because they make it from very small fish and purify it from environmental toxins.


Summary of How to Protect Yourself from Smoke in the Air


  1. Obviously, it is best to leave the area impacted with an unhealthy air quality index.


2. Stay indoors and run all available filters to protect yourself from both particles and gasses.


3.  When outside, wear a particulate respirator that has two straps and the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it.


4.  Limit running any A/C or heater that would be pulling air from outside. Although if you recycle the same air you can run into the risk of low oxygen. So you have to make that call as to how much air to bring from outside.


5.  Drink a lot of water to flush out toxins and stay hydrated as smoke dehydrates the body.


6.  Follow dietary guidelines that Dr. Myrto Ashe provided.


7.  Take supplements.


The Water Bottle Filter You Can Use


And now, I wanted to talk about water. If you have to evacuate or travel, you might not have access to filtered water. The quality of bottled water is poorly regulated and it is normally packaged in plastic.


The Aquasana water bottle filters deal with lead and other heavy metals – not just chlorine.


You can buy it on the Aquasana website or Amazon.

Stay healthy. And please share if you know of other resources to protect yourself from smoke in the air, or to provide filtered water while traveling.


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7 thoughts on “Protect Your Health From Smoke in the Air”

  1. Hello Irina,
    Since this is the only article I found where you mentioned supplements and fish oil I thought of leaving my question here. Forgive me for the long post. Sometime early this year, I had begun to research more about what I could add to my diet to help boost my dental health and had come across videos and blogs which advocated Dr Weston Price’s theories in his book titled Nutrition and Physical degeneration. To consume more fat soluble vitamins. With cod liver oil being a great option. I never bought any kind of fish oil before at that point, and somehow after a lot of research I came across Rosita Cod Liver oil. I haven’t come across an article of yours that talked about supplements specifically? So Im not sure if you avoid them because food is superior to what the market offers these days, with a lot of them being actually synthetic and not natural at all. However, Rosita claims its the only true cod liver oil in the market and it almost seems too perfect to be true to me, theres no synthetic additves or preservatives, no heat, no added vitamins (its all straight from the fish). They even claim to be using an ‘ancient extraction’ method to produce this. Its nitrogen flushed and oxygen free, meaning they claim it can be shipped in very hot weather without getting spoiled. I actually bought this oil twice, one was last winter, so I didn’t know how to trust how much it wouldnt spoil this summer, so I got another one when it was around 40 degrees celsius outside. When I received it, the bottle was really really warm, but it did not have even a slight change of taste. I honestly do not even know what other fish oils taste like. But this one is very raw to me. They often pair it with Emu oil capsules for its vitamin K contents. There’s other different health products on there that all seem to be highly natural or even raw in comparison to others you’d find in a store, so I’m honestly baffled that something like this exists in the market of supplements. I’m curious about your take on this personally because I haven’t seen you discuss this topic in specific. Therefore I would appreciate it greatly if you checked this out.

    Thank you for your time, and I admire your great efforts in helping others change and improve their lives no matter their position.

    1. Dear Wafa:
      Thank you for your question. I do not specialize in supplements and vitamins, at least not yet. 🙂 Luckily, we have a lot of functional and integrative medical professional for that. When I was at the integrative oncology conference last month, I attended one workshop on how to understand supplement labels. There is a whole science behind it. We will see if there is enough demand from my followers, I might get into that. But that would require a lot of time investment on my part. For now, I can just tell you which brands I use for me and my family if you are interested. I hope you had a relaxing Thanksgiving! ~Irina

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