How Smoke Affects Indoor Air Quality

Wildfire smoke, along with fuel-burning combustion appliances, can pollute the air within a home.

By Gemma O’Kane

Wildfire and Smoke in Homes

Wildfires have had an impact on our planet for millions of years, but in the last decade alone, millions of acres across the U.S. have been destroyed, resulting in the destruction of homes, and causing many deaths. A shocking 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by humans and could have been prevented. According to the EPA, wildfire smoke is composed of a mixture of gaseous pollutants (e.g., carbon monoxide), hazardous air pollutants, water vapor, and particle pollution.

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Face Masks Before COVID

Face masks may not have been a new safety innovation for Californian residents when the CDC made it a requirement for the COVID-19 pandemic. During wildfires, particulate matter is being released into the air, and can possibly get stuck in human lungs once inhaled, resulting in long-term inflammation. N95 and N100 facial masks were recommended in 2018, since they prevent inhalation of at least 95% of airborne particles. The video below from CBS gives viewers insight into how serious wildfire smoke is and how it negatively affects the human body. Harmful particles and smoke from wildfires can be carried thousands of miles and negatively impact indoor air quality across cities, states, and/or countries. In the video below, Dr. David Agus, one of the world’s leading physicians and an expert in medicine and engineering, is featured to explain how wildfire smoke travels and its effects on the human body. Dr. Agus states it is safer to stay indoors, but what about when the wildfire smoke gets inside your home?

How To Recover IAQ from Smoke Damage

Improper indoor air quality can result in many adverse health effects. There are three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality, which include:

  •  Source Control: Eliminate the source of pollution by closing all windows and doors.
  •  Air Cleaners: Since smoke particles are sized from 0.4µ-0.7µ, air purifiers, like the Ultrafine 468, trap and eliminate smoke and particles as small as 0.007µ on contact using DFS technology.
  • Improved Ventilation: Proper ventilation is paramount to the health of the occupants, but in this case, if the outside air is contaminated by smoke, the IAQ will be negatively affected.

How Outside Air Enters Indoors

In situations of smoke inhalation, ventilation is not an option due to unhealthy outside conditions. Inhaling wildfire smoke can cause irritation to the lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function, and increase vulnerability to respiratory infections, including COVID-19. It’s nearly impossible to prevent all outside air from entering the building, as it can seep through walls, ceilings, and electrical outlets. When it comes to keeping the IAQ in a safe range from wildfire smoke, close all the windows and doors, and turn up your Intellipure® Ultrafine 468 air purifier to a higher level (depending on severity).

How outside air enters indoors.

Benefits of Fire

Fortunately, not all fires or their effects damage the environment. Natural fires can clear out dead vegetation that has littered the ground to make room for new growth. Under specific and controlled environments by experts, these fires can reduce fuel buildup and prevent the loss of unwanted wildfires. But, the increasing number of wildfires and acres destroyed each year, can seriously affect the quality of the air near and far.

Identifying Issues Within Indoor Environments

Other than fire within nature, the quality of air within a home can also be dramatically affected by smoke from cooking, tobacco use, HVAC systems, and wood stoves. The main causes of indoor air pollution occur from the release of gasses or particles. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, 3.8 million people die a year from household exposure to smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuels.

Being aware of products within the household that could potentially give off pollutants is essential to assessing the air quality in your home. When it comes to fuel sources within the home, proper ventilation is now necessary. Signs that can indicate your home may not have enough ventilation include:

  •  Condensation on windows or walls.
  • Stuffy air.
  • Dirty HVAC equipment.

Air Purification and Smoke

There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from table-top models to sophisticated whole-house systems. When shopping for an air cleaner it’s important to look at total system efficiency, VOC filtration, and the number of square feet it can appropriately service. It’s noteworthy to remember that not all air purifiers are created equally and some are more effective than others.

The Ultrafine 468 has a pre-filter featuring a special carbon material that pre-absorbs harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and harmful chemicals. Many VOCs are human-made and can come from furniture, chemical cleaners, and paints within the home, resulting in concentrations up to ten times higher indoors. Up next within the Ultrafine 468 filtration system is the VOC post-filter, which absorbs VOCs such as formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene. Behind the post-filter is another layer of protection, the main filter, which is integrated with DFS technology to capture particles down to 0.007µ. This air purifier holds rigorous standards such as CARB, Intertek Zero Ozone, and EN 1822.

Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong smoke damage. People with a sensitivity to smoke may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source. Invest in an Ultrafine 468 air purifier and discover what Intellipure® can do for you.



We’re reimagining the world as a better, safer place with innovative air purification technologies. Our solutions are engineered in the USA and trusted in nearly every industry. To find out more about the latest in clean air take a look at the Intellipure lineup and follow us on Instagram at @Intellipure.