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Experts: Indoor Air Quality is Key as Wildfire Smoke Drives Many Indoors

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Thursday, September 2, 2021   

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- Smoke from the massive wildfires, along with the summer heat, is driving millions of Californians indoors, so experts are advising people to pay attention to their indoor air quality.

The idea is to avoid anything that burns, but particularly gas stoves.

Dr. Lisa Patel, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine, said gas stoves give off nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and microscopic irritants called particulate matter.

"We can inhale them," Patel explained. "They enter our lungs and into our bodies and can cause things like heart attack, stroke, respiratory infections or asthma."

Patel advised on poor air-quality days, when people cannot open their windows, they should cook with the microwave or an electric appliance such as a griddle, crock pot or rice cooker. If you must turn on the burner, be sure to turn on your range hood and consider using an air purifier. Gas dryers, furnaces and water heaters, which vent to the outdoors, also burn methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Barbara Gottlieb, director for environment and health with the nonprofit Physicians for Social Responsibility, said the state needs to move toward homes and buildings that run entirely on electricity derived from clean energy, and stop burning natural gas.

"Its power in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere is more than 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a short time frame," Gottlieb emphasized. "So for the sake of climate, you want to reduce your use of methane every way that you can."

Patel predicted wildfires, made worse by climate change, will soon become a year-round problem in California. The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change found that the past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850.


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