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Renewed Interest and Advocacy for Indoor Air Quality Measures and Building Codes in Response to Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19

Wildfire Smoke and Indoor Air Advocacy

On June 7th, wildfire smoke brought New York City’s outdoor air pollution to 100 times the safe level to breathe! We know this because we have standards and measures for outdoor air quality. But smoke and other pollutant particles continually infiltrate buildings – and yet indoor air quality standards do not exist [1]

Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to infections, including COVID-19. Precautions against wildfire smoke, such as wearing N95 respirator masks, can also provide protection from getting and spreading respiratory pathogens [2]

Although increasing ventilation is typically part of a plan to reduce COVID-19 risk, during times with wildfire smoke, it is recommended to close windows and doors to prevent outdoor polluted air from getting inside and instead focus on improving filtration. Indoor air quality upgrades, such as using MERV-13 filters in HVAC units, adding portable HEPA purifiers, and/or adding DIY air cleaners such as CR-Boxes, are recommended. Increased filtration protects not only against wildfire-related health damage, but also from many of the harms we are regularly faced with, from COVID-19, to allergens, to chemical pollutants thus providing year-round benefit [3]. Because we spend most of our time indoors, the health effects of indoor exposures to particles from wildfires are important, and on par with those effects of outdoor exposures [4].

Canadian Province of New Brunswick Supports Indoor Air Building Codes

In New Brunswick, Canada, a motion to update the New Brunswick Clean Air Act and improve air quality in public buildings passed unanimously on June 9th. Hopes are that the government will use these recommendations to implement new, higher standards, and invest in equipment, filtration, and ventilation systems in places such as schools, hospitals, and long-term care homes that will help for both wildfire smoke and COVID-19 [5].

Improving Indoor Air Quality in Schools Now Shown to be Urgent

Recent reports linking children and COVID-19 are more evidence that indoor air quality improvements are urgently needed in schools. 

  • More than 70% of US household COVID spread started with a child [6]. 
  • COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in US children [7], and first in deaths caused by infectious or respiratory diseases [8].  
  • COVID-19 infection and subsequent spread is now also being connected with the RSV surges [9] that hit schools and pediatric hospitals last year. 


The WHN School Safety Team recently released a new Paths to Healthy Learning Guide [10] 

Join the Weekly Action Team [11] to participate in one action per week.

Learn about the new Press team [12], and the Creative Working Group [13], and Content Finishing Team [14].

To better understand long COVID watch WHN’s Broadcast with Andrew Ewing [15]

Read our new statement: Building Capacity for Action: The Cornerstone of Pandemic Response [16]


[1] Canada wildfires renew advocacy for indoor air quality and building codes. Yahoo Finance. Published June 8, 2023. Accessed June 19, 2023. 

[2] Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19 | CDC. Published August 25, 2020. 

[3] Romano S. How To Minimize Wildfire Smoke Exposure in Your Home. IAQ.Works. Published July 28, 2021. Accessed June 19, 2023. 

[4] Wildfires | Indoor Air. Accessed June 19, 2023. 

[5] N.B. passes motion to improve air quality in public buildings, reduce spread of airborne illnesses. Yahoo News. Published June 9, 2023. Accessed June 19, 2023. 

[6] More than 70% of US household COVID spread started with a child, study suggests | CIDRAP. Published June 2, 2023. Accessed June 20, 2023. 

[7] Oxford U of. COVID-19 is a leading cause of death in children and young people in the United States. Accessed June 20, 2023. 

[8] Flaxman S, Whittaker C, Semenova E, et al. Assessment of COVID-19 as the Underlying Cause of Death Among Children and Young People Aged 0 to 19 Years in the US. JAMA Network Open. 2023;6(1):e2253590. doi: 

[9] Wang L, Davis PB, Berger NA, Kaelber DC, Volkow ND, Xu R. Disrupted seasonality and association of COVID-19 with medically attended respiratory syncytial virus infections among young children in the US: January 2010-January 2023. Published online May 16, 2023. doi: 

[10] Paths to Healthy Learning. WHN. Published May 31, 2023. Accessed June 20, 2023. 

[11] Weekly Action Team. WHN. Published May 16, 2023. 

[12] Announcing: The World Health Network Press Team. WHN. Published June 13, 2023. Accessed June 19, 2023. 

[13] Announcing: The World Health Network Creative Working Group. WHN. Published June 15, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023. 

[14] Announcing a New Resource for Streamlining the Process of Submitting Content for Publication by WHN: The Content Finishing Team. WHN. Published June 15, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023. 

[15] Andrew Ewing on long COVID and the findings of the recent JAMA Study. Accessed June 19, 2023. 
[16] Souza LE de, Heino MT, Bilodeau S, Bar-Yam, Yaneer, et al. Building Capacity for Action: The Cornerstone of Pandemic Response. WHN communications. 2023;4(6):1-1. doi: