Wildfires and Indoor Air Pollution

The current environmental threats and wildfires facing Americans are devastating. My heart is broken for our planet and the suffering many are enduring.  


In this article, I'm sharing some tips to stay healthy during this time. I also send regular newsletters with helpful science-based tips if you wanted to stay in the loop on integrative health. 

1. Check your air quality

The first rule of toxicology/detox is always exposure reduction. So, check the AQI in your area and if the air quality is poor, please stay indoors and keep the windows closed.

What is 'poor air quality? Well, it depends on your health status - for some, 50-100 may trigger asthma or cardiac events whereas other people can tolerate 150+ with little outward symptoms (even if there are no outward symptoms, there may be internal inflammation and oxidative stress going on, so please do keep an eye on that AQI and manage your activities accordingly)

Take a look at this chart below from the EPA. I personally avoid being outdoors if the AQI is above 100. If I have to be outdoors, I try to wear an N95 mask or P100 (make sure it is fitted properly and use a new one every day. People with lung and heart conditions need to check with their doctor before wearing N95 or P100 as these can make it more difficult to breathe). 


Check the air quality index in your area here. 

We now have evidence in the scientific literature linking air pollutants like PM 2.5 (from wildfires, and also vehicle exhaust, cooking, industrial processes, etc) - with many chronic diseases like cardiovascular, lung diseases, increased risks of stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, adverse birth outcomes, and even diabetes. So even if it may not 'smell bad', if the AQI is poor, avoid being outdoors, especially at a time when lung and immune health is paramount due to the coronavirus threat. 


2. Improving air quality in your home

Simple actions can go a long way:

- Take off your shoes when you come inside, this will reduce the tracking of particulate matter into your home. 

- Vacuum with a HEPA filter and wipe down surfaces with a wet rag (i.e. damp dust) regularly (1-2x a week) 

- avoid fragranced products: no scented candles, air fresheners and swap out household cleaners for non-toxic ones (I like and use Branch Basics (platefulhealth 15% off)

- Make sure to cook with the range hood ON as cooking, particularly at high temperatures can generate PM2.5. If you don't have one, consider investing in a portable air filter (see below) 

- Make sure you have recently replaced your HVAC filter at home (these should be ideally changed 2-3 months or so, sooner if you have allergies/respiratory conditions) - Look for a MERV rating as high as your HVAC system can handle, based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. (The higher the MERV the better the filtration, however, high MERV filters can cause issues with the HVAC so check your HVAC manual. Ideally, you want a MERV around 13, or more if your unit can tolerate it). 

- Last but not least, consider getting a CARB-certified portable air filter.

I personally use AirDoctor to filter my indoor air - and have 3 of them.  These little machines have helped us with so many symptoms and kept our indoor air clean for the last 3 fire seasons in California. 

  • Ultra-HEPA filter means it filters down to 0.003microns, 100x more effective than ordinary HEPA, which filters only 0.3microns. 
  • Professional-grade sensor to monitor air quality and adjusts filtration speed according to your air quality - so you don't have to guess what speed you should run the filter at. Once it has successfully filtered out the pollutants, it will adjust the speed down. I keep mine on 24/7 on the automatic mode, even if there are no fires because indoor air quality can be so poor due to VOCs. 
  • The most affordable PROFESSIONAL QUALITY air purifier I have found for the CADR it offers. Comparable units with similar CADR and functionality cost $800-1000.
  • They have a larger size which is good for larger rooms: has a CADR of 560, filters 2170 sqf every 2 hours
  • They also have a medium size which is good for most rooms: Has a CADR of 320, filters 1262 sqf every 2 hours
  • Please note that walls will reduce the effectiveness of the filtration and so ideally, the filter should be in the room you are in and not on the landing or a corridor. This is why I have 3 in our house, I bring it to the room I'm in, and perhaps the most important room is the bedroom where we spend 8+ hours per day. 

 My affiliate discount link gets you up to $300 off here.

3. Support your body:

This is particularly important if you know your natural detoxification systems may be suboptimal due to genetic variations like MTHFR, GSTM-1. 

What I'm sharing below is for education only and not to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting new supplements and making lifestyle changes. 

- Drink lots of filtered water

- Eat antioxidant-rich foods - focus on getting in different colors of the rainbow + plenty of fiber.

Variety is important, and I want to highlight:

  • Berries
  • Cruciferous - bak choi, broccoli, cabbage, daikon
  • Quercetin rich foods (green tea/matcha, apple, onion, capers)
  • Other things that may support the glutathione detox pathway (this is the master antioxidant in our body):  Green tea/matcha, rosemary, rooibos, turmeric, ginger, garlic. Visit my website shop for my favorite brands of turmeric + tea.
  • Fermented foods - your gut health is important in detoxification. 

4) Getting enough magnesium and zinc - sources include; leafy greens, nuts/seeds, cacao, pumpkin seeds, and supplement if necessary but consult a health care provider before use. Epsom salt baths are also a great option to obtain some magnesium transdermally.

5) Get enough B vitamins - which are needed to support detoxification - leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, legumes (animal sources if you eat meat like liver) - speak to your doctor if you need a supplement as some people need specific forms of B vitamins. 

 6) Increase your intake of Vitamin C. Smoke, especially the ultrafine particulate matter causes widespread inflammation. Antioxidants can help counter some of the oxidative damage that leads to inflammation. Food is always the preferred source e.g. berries, bell peppers, camu camu, kiwi, but I also supplement when I can't get enough from my diet or if there is an increased demand. 

7) NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is a precursor to glutathione (a master antioxidant). It can provide detox and lung support. 

8) Sometimes, supplementing with glutathione may help support detoxification - speak to your health care provider to see if this is a good option for you as it does not suit everyone and some people experience side effects. I personally like the Quicksilver or Readisorb Liposomal Glutathione 

9) If you have a sauna, use it if you don't have medical contraindications! I personally loved my portable low EMF, non off-gassing sauna by Therasage (discount code Platefulhealth) before upgrading to a wooden one. I use my sauna 2-3x a week and more if I have had a high environmental toxin exposure. Studies show that environmental toxins like heavy metals can be found in sweat. If you don't have a sauna, take a bath (and maybe add some Epsom salt to it!)

10) Avoid things that tax our detoxification systems e.g. alcohol, inflammatory foods, toxins in our environment from household cleaners and personal care products. We want to take the load off our liver and kidneys so they can focus on getting rid of the air pollutants that do enter our bodies.  

11) Last but not least - double down on self-care and stress management. Stress can cause inflammation and impair detoxification and our gut health. I know it is easier said than done. We are collectively experiencing a REALLY stressful and rough time, and if you are feeling worn down - I feel you.  These feelings are valid, and it's important to connect with them, process them, then letting them go. Journalling has helped me tremendously.  Meditation and breathwork have been absolute saviors for me, and whatever self-care or stress management might look like for you, I really encourage you to carve time out of your day to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF.

Here is an example of breathwork if you want to check it out. 

p.s. Sitting for 20 minutes is not a waste of time. It can have profound benefits for your health, both mental and physical. 

Stay safe and healthy my friends! If you found this article helpful,  subscribe to my newsletter so you get information like this straight into your inbox and never miss out.