Demand spikes for air purifiers in Alameda County as smoky conditions prevail

Bay Area

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KRON) – If you’re looking for an air purifier to deal with the wildfire smoke, you may have a hard time finding one these days.

Local hardware stores are selling out.

We’ve seen this happen during wildfire season but this time we’re also dealing with the pandemic as we are just getting into peak season.

As smoky and hazy conditions prevail over the Bay Area, people are heading into hardware stores to buy air purifiers only to find them sold out.

“We had an air purifier a week ago, we sold that and we don’t anticipate getting any more in,” Jim Wieder said. 

We stopped by Hayward Hardware Wednesday afternoon, Jim Wieder is the owner. He shows us air purifiers are not the only items selling out.

The N95 masks meant to filter out 95% of airborne particles have been off the shelves since the pandemic.

“The N95’s the classic ones, hugely popular – forget about it, forget about it. not going to happen this year. they’re either going to the military or they’re going to hospitals. for vendors like us, they’re not in the warehouse nor do we expect them to do,” Wieder said. 

With a record number of acres burning across the state, drift smoke is not going away any time soon making it challenging for small business owners like Wieder to keep up with demand.

“Most of the quantities are zero and for a lot of items negative 10, negative 20, upwards of 200 for popular items that we used to be able to get pretty quickly and pretty regularly,” Wieder said. 

Hayward Hardware is down to the last load of masks, environmental health experts say if you must be outside, you should wear one, which has been the new normal anyway, but it’s best to stay indoors with the windows closed.

“People should not be exercising when the air quality is bad because that increases the dose of the pollutants,” John Balmes said. 

John Balmes is a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

He says the smoke will be challenging for people with preexisting heart and lung disease.

and to be ready for more bad air days.

“Bad air quality is from wildfires which are driven by climate change so if anybody needs convincing that climate change is real this should be it,” Balmes said. 

It may be challenging to find items like air purifiers, portable air conditioners in stock to deal with the smoke, online might be the way to go. 

Even though masks are required, Professor Balmes says cloth masks are good for preventing the spread of COVID-19 but not good for filtering out fine particles from wildfire smoke. 

Surgical masks and select K-N95’s made in China would be better options under these circumstances.

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