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How do we reduce the health impacts of wildfires?

Individuals in native communities have had their health harmed by exposure to the smoke, stress, and disruption of community life of uncontrolled wildfires. Air filtration using portable, high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters is a mature technology capable of significantly reducing exposure, but must be appropriately sized to manage smoke. The cost of high-performance air filtration systems is prohibitive ($400-600, with filter replacements at $100-200) for many vulnerable households.

Through a partnership between Possibility Lab, California 100, Cal Poly Humboldt Schatz Energy Research Center, and Northern California native communities, we aim to evaluate the effectiveness of deployed filters for reducing indoor and exposure concentrations. We will do this by developing a general framework for properly sizing air filtration to different sized buildings, while conducting measurements of air quality concentrations and air purifier operations in over 100 households.

The results will guide us in improving the specification and sizing of air filtration systems that are distributed by public health programs for both community buildings and individual households in order to counteract the disproportionate effects of wildfires on the health of native communities. They will also help to provide a better understanding of how messaging and educational support influence the use of filtration systems by community members, and will serve as the basis for more refined cost-benefit analyses to justify similar interventions under different wildfire hazard scenarios, along with program design practices to scale up and sustain community-based filter interventions.

This project was made possible with funding from California 100.