Smoke, Dust, and Soot
Wildfires: Find guidance from the TCEQ and other agencies on protecting your health and the environment while cleaning up after and disposing of debris from a wildfire.
What is smoke?
Smoke is a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. The exact composition of smoke depends on what is being burned, the moisture content of the product, and the fire temperature. Fine particles in smoke are the main concern from a health perspective. Smoke can also contain carbon dioxide, water vapor, trace minerals, and other harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, acrolein, formaldehyde, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Is smoke bad for me?
Yes. It’s a good idea to avoid breathing smoke if you can help it. The small particles and gases in smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs, causing runny nose, bronchitis, or burning eyes. Exposures to high concentrations of these particles can cause persistent cough, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Children, older adults, and people with pre-existing heart or lung disease are more susceptible to lower levels of smoke than healthy adults.
What can I do to protect myself?
- Intense smoke can be seen and smelled. Use common sense in evacuating areas where smoke levels are high.
- Stay aware of the current wildfire situation by watching the news or visiting the Texas Forest Service website.
- Use your best judgment. Don’t plan heavy exercise, work, or children’s playtime outside if it looks smoky. If you’re advised to stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed. Run your air conditioner, if you have one, and keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean.
- On the EPA website, find current outdoor particulate information for your area.
- Help keep particle levels inside your home lower by avoiding using anything that burns, such as wood stoves, gas stoves, and candles. If possible, avoid smoking.
- If you have asthma, be vigilant about maintaining your daily routine and taking your medicines as prescribed by your doctor. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.