In an effort to reduce the health risks from wildfire smoke to some of the region’s most vulnerable residents, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced last week that they plan to provide free air purifiers to 3,000 Bay Area residents who suffer from asthma and who are low-income.
The Clean Air Filtration program was launched earlier in August in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties, and has been expanded to include Marin, Napa, and Solano counties, so it includes all 9 Bay Area counties now.
A partnership with Oakland-based Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP), this is the first program of its kind, and will help mitigate the potential health impacts of wildfires for the Bay Area’s most vulnerable residents.
The program also aims to provide larger air filter systems for emergency cooling centers and shelters for the unhoused.
Smoke from wildfires has negative health impacts
Demand for air purifiers has increased in recent years as California has suffered unprecedented wildfires which have sent soot and smoke levels soaring to dangerously unhealthy levels at this time of year.
“Wildfire smoke can have immediate health impacts and trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema, COPD, or other respiratory conditions. During wildfires, air pollution has real and significant health consequences, even for those without pre-existing conditions,” the district notes in the press release.
Most at risk, according to BAAQMD, are elderly, low-income people with pre-existing breathing problems who are stuck at home in residential hotels or apartments with little relief when air quality plummets due to wildfire smoke.
Last year was a record-setting year for wildfires in California. This year, California is currently battling several raging fires, including the Caldor fire near Lake Tahoe. The fires are currently affecting air quality in the Bay Area.
BAAQMD said it will spend $350,000 on the program, and will seek donations from corporations and others to expand it more broadly in the months ahead.
How to request an air purifier
Bay Area residents who are low-income with asthma who are interested in receiving a free, portable air purifier should send an email to AirFilters@baaqmd.gov. The district said they are still in the beginning stages of launching the program; emailing is the best way to get on a list for a future announcement on how to apply to and receive an air purifier.
Air purifiers typically cost $100-$150 and can be purchased at many stores. They are recommended as part of wildfire preparation. The district has instructions on how to use an air purifier.