CDC: Paper dust masks don’t provide protection from smoke

Fire Season 2019: For the latest updates on fires buring in our region, go here: Fire Season 2019.

An N95 respirator. Photo: N.Y. Dept. of Health

MEDFORD, Ore. – The air quality outlook for the Rogue Valley isn’t looking good due to smoke from the Milepost 97 Fire, and that can become a real issue for some residents.

While you may be tempted to run to the local hardware store to buy a dust mask for some relief, the Centers for Disease Control says those paper masks won’t protect you.

The masks are made to filter out large particles, such as sawdust. They won’t protect your lungs from the mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation that makes up wildfire smoke.

However, an “N95” respirator can provide some protection if worn properly. N95s have the ability to filter out 95% of airborne particles.

The U.S. Food and Drug administration says government approved N95 respirators need to fit properly, and proper fit cannot be achieved on children or people with facial hair.

In addition, N95 respirators may make it more difficult to breathe for some people, particularly those with chronic respiratory and/or cardiac conditions.

Aside from an approved respirator, the CDC says there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk from wildfire smoke:

  • Check local air quality reports and pay attention to public health messages.
  • Consult local visibility guides if available.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed and the air conditioning running.
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor air pollution, including vacuuming.
  • Evacuate from the path of wildfires if necessary.

You can check current air conditions at

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