What you need to know about using respirator masks amid Camp Fire smoke

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When it comes to covering your face to prevent breathing in smoke from the fire, we are learning that some masks will not get the job done.

In fact, health officials say there are time limits even if you do have the proper respirator mask.

Some of the most iconic views of San Francisco’s skyline can be found in the Potrero Hill neighborhood but not now due to lingering smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County. Health experts say if you are outdoors, you run the risk of breathing in particulate matter along with that smoke.

The danger associated with particulate matter can be deceiving because it is not always about what you see.

“No, on the roof of your car, you can see the large particles,” Contra Costa County Health Services Department Dr. Chris Farintano said. “The ones we’re talking about are really too small to see, but they get into your lungs and irritate your lungs.”

Covering your nose and mouth is recommended to block particulate material, but not everything that covers your face will keep you safe.

Is tying a bandana or a T-shirt around their face a good idea?

“Probably not effective,” Dr. Farintano said. “In some ways, it could make things worse, make it more difficult for you to breathe.”

Although you may see some folks out there wearing surgical masks, the professionals say these masks won’t protect you either.

“This is a standard surgical mask,” Dr. Farintano said. “This will not help. This does not keep that smoke and particulate material out.”

However, an N95 mask, on the other hand, will prevent up to 90 percent of particulate matter from getting into your lungs, but if you’re going to be outside for a prolonged period, health officials say you’re going to need more than the N95.

“It should be changed regularly,” Dr. Farintano said. “It should be changed every hour or so for prolonged use. It tends to lose its effect.”

You can find the N95 mask at most hardware stores.

Ten-packs cost around $20.

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