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VERIFY: Cloth masks won't protect you from wildfire smoke

Cloth masks may slow the spread of COVID-19 but it's not the best choice to block smoke particles.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The historic wildfires burning across Oregon have led to hazardous air quality in some parts of the state. 

According to the CDC, wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  

"They're irritants," said Dr. Anh Nyguen, a senior medical director for the urgent care clinics at Providence. "For people that have underlying illnesses, such as asthma or heart and lung conditions that irritant can actually exacerbate their current state."

Even though a mask may help stop the spread of COVID-19, they don't all protect you from wildfire smoke.

Dr. Nyguen said the cloth face coverings and surgical masks used to slow the spread of COVID won't filter out wildfire smoke particles. 

The n-95 respirator mask will filter out smoke and slow the spread of COVID but the masks are still in high demand and should be saved from doctors and nurses. 

The n-95 masks with the valves will block smoke particles but not slow the spread of COVID 19.  You could wear a cloth mask over the n-95 mask with a valve as an alternative. 

The CDC recommends staying inside and using a portable air cleaner to protect yourself from wildfire smoke.  

If you have a forced-air system in your home, you may need to speak with a qualified heating, ventilation, and air conditioning professional about different filters, HEPA or MERV-13 or higher to reduce indoor smoke.

Do you have something you want us to Verify? Email us at Verify@kgw.com

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