Yesterday evening a northwest wind picked up, turning the sun orange and the blotting it out with smoke from a wildfire somewhere on the western slop of the Sierra Nevada.
In the morning, I woke up and smelled a little smoke, but I was essentially on an “island” above most of it.
The good news is that a 3M P100 particulate respirator eliminated the odor, which tells me that it is filtering out some very small particulates (P100 takes out particles with oil, N100 does not). I assume the N100 would have done the same job, but I do not know as I did not try it.
- 3M 8233 Particulate Respirator N100
- 3M Particulate Respirator 8233, N100-4 Count
- 3M Particulate Respirator P100
The face mask I use and find comfortable even under heavy exertion is the 3M Particular Respirator 8233, N100. I suggest buying a 4-pack of 3M Particular Respirator 8233, N100. It is relatively durable too, so it can be used many times. It seals up really well, far better than N95 or other inferior face masks. The P100 is in theory even better, since it takes out particles with oil as well.
Research shows that poor air quality is a contributing factor to heart disease and many other health problems. For example, recent research suggests that air pollution can incite diabetes. And it is now thought that the list of diseases linked to air pollution is growing. Take your lungs seriously, young or old, but particularly the older you are. I would not be surprised to see a link to various types of cancers emerge.
Below a series of pictures showing how the smoke blew in and spread. There is a large vortex between the Sierra Nevada and White Mountains and surrounding mountains. It follows gaps in the mountains, sometimes circulating around, generally making a mess of the Owens valley and similar places while (sometimes) leaving the high elevations clean and clear.
Below, the lighting was so attractive that I headed back to get my real cameras, but within 30 minutes the smoke in the west had killed the lighting.
Not too bad at 9 AM, but I can smell smoke and I am wearing a P100 particular respirator and not ventilating the van air, which is still free of the stink.
By 11 AM is looking nasty to the south.
At 11 AM the northwest direction looks promising, with hints of blue, but see how dense the smoke at far right—that’s a lower elevation and the smoke follows that path.
Excepting heavy exertion (very heavy, far more than most people will do) at 6000' elevation and higher, and N100/P100 face mask is quite comfortable.
David M writes:
Thanks for your post about the N100 face mask. A few weeks ago I was photographing on the island of Hawaii and was overwhelmed by the vog (volcanic emissions) from Kīlauea volcano. I've been coughing constantly for the last 3 weeks. My doctor gave me an inhaler, but once you get junk in your lungs, it's there to stay.
I'm going back in 2 weeks and I'll definitely be bringing one of these face masks.
DIGLLOYD: not only can the 'junk' stay, micro scarring can occur, and that can lead to a permanent reduction of lung function (small airways), and a predisposition to viral infections.
I question the wisdom of going back given the damage already done (it can take years for the lungs to recover from some insults, personal experience), but the mask should keep particulate matter out, provided it is properly fitted. Also, the N100 face mask does nothing to keep out chemical vapors like hydrogen sulfide. Were I going back, I’d get something 'serious' with activated carbon.
David C writes:
Lung insults: from some there is no recovery, e.g. silicosis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicosis.
I wasn’t aware that even blowing desert sand can cause the disease.
DIGLLOYD: I wasn’t aware of that either. I know that I have a few nodules in my lungs already (from a CT scan after my concussion).
I’ll be wearing a mask for Southern Inyo Double Century and Joshua Tree Double Century from now on, at least in the worst areas, regardless of apparent conditions as there is always some level of dust/fine sand.