Under this smothering blanket of smoke I find myself fighting claustrophobia, sore throat, tight chest, and achy joints. Fire experts predict continued worsening of fires in coming years. Idaho is right in the middle of a recent Climate Central’s bull’s-eye chart depicting changes in air quality on the most polluted seven days of each year since 1970. How do we best protect ourselves and prevent future harm?
If you don’t have an air-conditioned house, the Xenex Co-Op carries filters that can be taped to regular fans, which can be fitted into windows to force air through them. The Home Depot website has Swamp Coolers to further cool the air. HEPA air-purifiers such as Austin Healthmate and HEPA vacuum cleaners further reduce smoke particles.
If you do have to work outside or can’t help yourself from going for a run or hike, get one of the carbon filters from a hardware store that are rated N/P/R95. They get the small particles out of the air you breath if the mask is fitted properly — difficult with beards.
The first line of defense for the body to deal with smoke is the mucous membranes in the respiratory system. Breathing through your nose rather than mouth will assist natural filtration. Nasal lavages (nasopure.com) with saline solution (1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon baking soda per cup of filtered water) once to twice a day remove smoke particles and microbes directly and strengthen the respiratory tract.
Thayers’ Slippery Elm Lozenges help sooth and protect the throat. Herbal teas of mullen, coltsfoot, red clover, and yarrow do the same for the lungs. If you have chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD please contact a healthcare provider for stronger anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant and lung tonic herbs, or prescriptions such as nebulized glutathione.
As any toxic and smoke particulates do get into the bloodstream, it is wise to help the body detox. The easiest way is to increase brassica vegetables (cabbage, kale, collard, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) as they support both phase one and two detox pathways in the liver. Dandelion root tea is a good liver tonic. Skin brushing, sauna sweating, trampoline bouncing, and inversions support the lymphatic system in removing toxins from liver and tissues to the elimination channels. Ensuring once daily bowel movements, adding extra fiber (two tablespoons ground flaxseed), and drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of filtered water will encourage actual elimination of toxins. Adding extra Vitamin C and turmeric in form of curries or capsules (liposomal form or with pepper and fat) will help your body deal with increased inflammation.
While protecting and supporting our bodies during the fire season is essential adaptation to a changing climate, we also need to look at the health of our forests. Best forest management practices and good firefighting plans are essential for keeping fires controlled. However, the fact that the climate is getting hotter, fueling more extensive fire seasons each year, begs to start a discussion about what can be done about climate change. We have to go beyond complaining on the left that nobody is discussing policy; or on the right that if we just cleaned up our forests this would not be a problem. There is a bipartisan climate caucus (currently 84 bipartisan members) in Congress already, whose focus is to engage in discussion of viable climate solutions. The investment community just came out with a new index series that takes into account companies’ performance based on an expected 2030 carbon price. This will drive investments away from fossil fuel and towards renewable energy.
If you are interested in fostering such discussion, please check out the Sandpoint Citizens Climate Lobby action page for scripted suggestions to make calls or send emails to our representatives, president, and EPA head (cclsandpoint.org/contact-your-reps) . They need to hear from us if we want a discussion that goes beyond local mitigation and adaptation. If human contribution to climate change is true, I would like to be able to tell my grandkids that we did whatever we could to address the situation and move towards cleaner air at the same time.
Dr. Gabrielle Duebendorfer has been practicing as a naturopathic physician in Sandpoint for over 20 years. She is greatly concerned about the health impacts of global warming and is active in the local CCL chapter (firstname.lastname@example.org)