Does wearing a mask when it's smoky outside work?

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The air in the Bay Area has been filled with smoke because of a massive fire burning in Northern California's Butte County. What are the risks of breathing in the smoke -- and do masks even work? (KGO-TV)

If you've been outside in the Bay Area in the last couple of days, you'll undoubtedly have experienced the smoke and haze, a result of the Camp Fire currently burning in Northern California's Butte County.

RELATED: Check current Bay Area air quality levels

Air quality can actually have serious effects on your health. If you live in San Francisco, you should keep track of the air quality by visiting https://www.sf72.org/ or following the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management on Twitter.

When the Air Quality Index is above 150, the San Francisco Health Department recommends that everyone, even healthy adults and people not usually sensitive to smoke, should take precautions by reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

RELATED: How to make your N95 mask smaller for infants, kids

But people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teenagers should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the Air Quality Index is above just 100.

And for those interested in buying a mask to help mitigate the effects of the smoke: the California Department of Public Health advises that most regular masks, including surgical masks and dust masks, don't actually prevent inhalation of small particles or gases in smoke.


But some types of masks do filter up to 95 percent of small smoke particles and are marked with one of the following: "P95," "R95" or "N95." Other masks with higher ratings -- marked "P100," "R100" or "N100" -- can filter out even more particles, according to the California Department of Public Health.

But without a good seal around the wearer's mouth and nose, these masks won't be effective. Find more information about masks here.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District advises that masks aren't suitable for young children or men with beards.

See more stories, photos and videos on the Camp Fire in Butte County.
Related Topics:
healthair qualitycaliforniaCamp Firefirewildfirebrush firesmokepollutionSan Francisco
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