I have long known that the particulate matter from woodsmoke is especially toxic. That cozy winter smell of logs burning in a fireplace is not quite the benign thing we like to imagine it to be. I wonder if we’ll ever think of the smell the same way again.
Another reason we need more masks
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
Last Thursday, I dared to open the front of the Sharp air purifier that chugs away in the living room day and night. It’s been here for a number of years because there’s some strange air pattern that causes smoke from neighbor’s fireplaces to hang directly over my condo. Once, I was walking with a friend who hadn’t quite believed my reporting of that odd pattern. She believed me once we had walked in and out of it twice.
The packaging for the changeable filter in the air purifier says it should last up to two years. The last time it was changed, according to my Sharpie scrawl on the side panel, was May 19, 2019, less than a year and a half ago. Two years ain’t what it used to be. The formerly white filter itself was black with things I don’t want to think about and the charcoal pre-filter had long since, I am sure, given up its helpful activities. Amazon to the rescue.
The new filter arrived on Friday afternoon. I didn’t see the Amazon delivery person who brought it. Or maybe it was someone from the USPS. Either way, while I was sealed up as much as possible in my apartment—windows closed, a towel stuffed in the crack at the bottom of the front door, not having left here at all since a quick trip to TJ’s last Thursday after the big warning arrived—there are others who don’t have the luxury of staying inside.
Over the past six months, we’ve developed a new appreciation for, and a broader definition of, essential workers. We understand that they’re not just medical personnel but also include sanitation workers, grocery clerks, mail deliverers. The guy who runs the corner gas station.
Here’s what those essential workers needed six months ago to protect themselves, and others, from transmitting COVID19: N95 masks. Here’s what offers the best protection from smoke inhalation: N95 masks. Here’s what we still don’t have enough of: N95 masks.
Those essential workers have not gotten any less essential. They are, however, putting themselves in even greater danger than they already have been for months. I am sorry and I am grateful.