HEPA Filters and Wildfire Smoke

As I stepped into Trego School on a warm smoky afternoon, I developed a sudden admiration for HEPA filters. About a month ago, I wrote about the school’s new HEPA filters, purchased as part of their Health and Safety plan. As it turns out, HEPA filters are excellent for wildfire smoke.

HEPA filters are good at filtering out the really small, which is what the most harmful particles in wildfire smoke are. Last week, as our air quality worsened, I wrote about the problems associated with breathing smoke, such as headaches and coughing.

The tiniest particles of smoke (less than 2.5 microns) are the most dangerous. This is because they are small enough to find their way deep into the lungs, some even reaching the bloodstream. When air quality is monitored, it is these tiny particles that are of utmost concern.

Fortunately, HEPA filters are quite capable of removing these tiny particles from the air. With air quality as poor as it has been, stepping into Trego School last week was a literal breath of fresh air. The filters turn themselves on automatically if air quality worsens. They remain quiet, and are present in each of the school’s classrooms.

Since children are among “sensitive groups” that the EPA expects to be most impacted by wildfire smoke, the HEPA filters seem to have been an especially good investment for the school, one which will continue to be useful in years to come.


Filters come to Trego School

Trego School’s Health and Safety Plan includes HEPA filters installed in air purifiers and in the heaters. While the filters for the heaters have not yet arrived (and are not expected to be needed soon, given current temperatures), the others are here.

HEPA filters specialize in filtering out the really small, things measured in microns (a micron, or micrometer, is a thousand times smaller than a millimeter). This means that they aren’t just going to pick up relatively large particles in the air such as dog hair.

These filters are effective at removing dust, pollen, and smoke particles from the air. This particular model will filter a 23 ft by 23 ft room in about 15 minutes.

The filters are plain, discrete, and nearly silent. The biggest risk seems to be that students and staff will wander over to the trashcan-like cylinder and have to redirect, a problem that should surely lessen with time.

While the immediate use of the filters is obvious, it will be interesting to see how well these filters help students with asthma, and allergies. Will they be pressed into service the next time our air is filled with smoke? Will we see less spread of other illnesses this year, as our schools check temperatures, wash hands, and spread out?

School starts on Wednesday, September 2nd. Enrollment information can be found on the school website.